Shortstoryathon

A Rumination of Rapid-Fire Fiction

brought to you by The Blow Up Dolls in the Reflecting Pond Society

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Steaking Claim


Our gazes tangled and caught across an ocean of steak, both his tongs and mine grabbing for the same medium rare New York strip.

He smiled. I frowned.

“Hey.” He said.

“Hello.” I attempted to offer an adequately polite greeting but knew the inflection of my voice affected a substandard result.

His hair was as red as marbled sirloins; spiking at odd angles, it reminded me of a pin cushion or an anemone.

“You have my steak there.” His smile widened, shark white in contrast to his blood red hair; he tugged with his tongs, not enough to take the steak, but enough to inform me that he meant business.

Him and his grabby tongs.

I briefly considered yielding. It was, after all, just one steak in a sea of several. My arm even relaxed slightly as I evaluated the merits of the meat and what had drawn me to it in the first place. It was smaller in length and width than the others, but noticeably thicker. That was why I’d chosen it, the thickness; an unusual find in Bob’s Meat Mart, All you can eat meat buffet.

“Lady,” his single word brought my attention back to him; he was still smiling but his expression had grown waxy, “Let go of the steak.”

Let go of the steak? Who was he to tell me to let go of the steak?

I had just as much a right to the steak as him, if not more. I rolled my lips between my teeth and narrowed my eyes. If I allowed him to take it, take the steak he had no right to claim, then what did that say about me?

My arm stiffened and a pulsing anger- and, yes, honestly, outrage- encouraged my fingers to tighten their grip on the tongs. “I will not. It’s my steak. You let go of the steak.”

He blinked at me three times, his smile subterfuge slipping into scaly confusion. “What is the big deal, lady? It’s just a steak.”

“The big deal is that this steak is mine, I saw it first, and you should let go.” I tugged the steak toward my plate and all pretense of politeness evaporated.

Mr. Red braced his feet apart, his eyes bulging as his tongs and the hand attached to them were yanked under the heat hood of the buffet. Yet, despite my best efforts, his grip on the fillet held firm.

“Whoa!” A man behind me set his plate down on the buffet runner with a slight clatter. “You two are holding up the line. One of you are going to hafta let go of that strip.”

“This lady is crazy.” The steak absconder bellowed. “Can’t you see that people are trying to get through?”

I saw his concern for the customers behind us as a paltry attempt to gain sympathy in his quest for my meat. It would not work.

This steak was mine; he knew it, I knew it, my tongs had the superior grip. He was a steak usurper.
This redheaded menace was attempting to abscond with my steak.

Steak absconders had been constant in my life. I knew their tricks. It all started with my sister and her psychotic propensity to claim my Barbie doll’s sparkly hair accessories. More recently my run ins were manifest in my current boyfriend and his proclivity to eat all the buffalo chicken drumsticks leaving me with the only wings; two bones, more messy, less meat. I hated the wings. I wanted the drumsticks.

I glanced over my shoulder very briefly, not wanting to remove my attention from my advisory for any length of time. Indeed, a line both substantial in number and bulk was languishing behind us. They were stopped, attempting to peek around the person directly in front of them, presumably to determine the nature of the holdup.

A small murmur had started. Soon it would crescendo into a buzzing belligerence.

“Then I guess you’d better just drop the steak.” I intended for my voice to take on a Dirty Harry tenor, instead I was pretty sure I just sounded like I had laryngitis.

“Do I need to get the manager?” the man behind me semi-shouted his bluff, hoisting his substantial belly in my direction and bumping my back.

I knew he wouldn’t get the manager. He would lose his place in line should the skirmish resolve before he returned. Then he might miss out of the cornbread cake and cheesy macaroni at the end of the line.

“Yes. Please do. Tell him there is a steak absconder stealing people’s food and keeping hungry diners from banana pudding.” I widened my stance even as my fingers gripping the tongs started to tingle with the first signs of numbness.

A woman was shifting restlessly on her feet behind the absconder. She held a toddler on her hip who, until this point, had been preoccupied by her mother’s earrings. But the baby was growing restless and bucked against the woman’s hold. Her eyes met mine and I saw pleading there, a shared moment between women. She pressed her lips together, her gaze urging me to drop the steak.

Drop it, let it go, it’s what we do.

I felt her pain, felt the depth of her beseeching request to my bones. I tried to wordlessly impart my perspective—hoped that she would understand that I was fighting on the side of right, of justice; instead my eye twitched.

The toddler started to cry.

“Oh for God’s sake, just cut the damn thing in half.” The woman set her full plate down on the runner and readjusted the child.

“Why should I have to eat half a steak just because this loony won’t let go.” Mr. Red’s eyes were large and hostile. A blue vein distended in his forehead and he licked his lips. 

He looked nervous.

I nodded slowly, “Fine. Yes. Let’s cut the steak in half. Sounds like a good compromise.”

“What?” His eyes snapped to mine, he appeared dismayed by the prospect of splitting the steak.

“You’re ok with cutting it in half?”

“That’s right.” I held his glare, smirked with purpose; my mouth pulled to the right; I tilted my head to the left. To complete the sardonic trifecta I lifted a single eyebrow. “Cut it in half.” I allowed myself to drawl the words, pronounce each with the gratification of piercing his soul.

The man behind me gasped. His surprise and abject horror fed the inner beast of unyielding stubbornness that had been unleashed within me.

The words hung between us, bobbing on the ocean of steak. I allowed myself an internal chortle of success and watched with satisfaction as his eyes lovingly caressed the browned chunk held hostage by my tongs.  The internal struggle lasted less than seven seconds but, in those moments, I realized this battle was no longer about winning the thickest steak. It was about ensuring my antagonist would never reign triumphant.

His loss was my win.

His tongs opened with a loud bang against the metal tray holding the New York strips and he stepped back from the buffet, his top lip curled into a snarl, “Fine, whatever! I don’t want that one anymore anyway. It looks burnt.”

An Electric current, seductive and frightening, coursed through my spine and radiated to my fingers and toes. With flourish I lifted the steak to my plate, enjoyed Mr. Red’s wince as I nestled it neatly between my collard greens and grits.

I smiled at my opponent, hoping to bask in his misery and my contentment, but he was no longer looking at me. He’d identified an alternate steak and had expeditiously moved on to the corn cake and cheesy macaroni.

I scoffed at Mr. Red’s feigned indifference and twisted to share my success with the woman and the toddler behind him. She was busily adding peas and mashed potatoes to her plate.

I glanced at the big belled bully behind me. His attention was solely focused on a rack of baby back ribs just beyond the steak tray.

The electric current waned. I swallowed a sudden thickness in my throat. I turned from the buffet, drifted through the dining room of vinyl booths and cracker style chairs. With every step my success felt more like failure and I was blanketed in a bereft fog of confusion.

Yes, I’d won the steak. Yes, I’d foiled an absconder. But instead of facing judgment like a righteous martyr or meeting the praise of passerby’s, I was in the limbo of irrelevance. My success mattered to me and only me.

But, if you experience a success and no one is there to witness it, does it make a sound? Did it really happen?

Troubled by these thoughts I slid into the booth next to my boyfriend. His fingers were slathered in buffalo sauce, a drip of blue cheese was on his chin.

He didn’t look up from his food and when he spoke a piece of chicken hung like bunting between his incisors. “Hey- look, they have buffalo wings.”

I glanced at my steak. It was thick and small.

My eyes moved to David’s plate. He’d already eaten all the drumsticks, leaving me the wings.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

A Poltergeist On the Surmised and Misappropriated Betrayal and theElongated Outcome


...You see, I once existed in times and tongues forgotten. What I did to pass the time only partially relevant and how I was reared, not at all. So I shall dispense with those trivialities. On the hind end of yet another campaign I happened to befriend this one very specific Centurion. The Centurion became a loyal friend of excellent character, promised loyalty with a everlasting sworn oath to protect et al etcetera etcetera ad infinitum. However I had found out rather quickly that the Centurion, over the past ten or so years before the extended skirmish was in charge of what else, but crucifying the accused and convicted alike. Yes, this was found to be a disturbing prospect by me. However, I learned to accept it rather gracefully over time.

Later because of the vengeful self that I was at the time I had been eventually sentenced to death by the very same horrifying method. Why? Ah yes a detail of the story better left unsaid. Let's just say it involved this here sword, a great deal of blood and the brutal death of another while not on the field of battle. In fact, I probably deserved the sentence cast upon me. The deed of mine may have been justified but the how of my execution of the action, arguably inexcusable of course.

No matter. The important thing is that once I found myself at the top of the hill where the scaffold was erected, the Centurion alone was standing there, forged iron spikes in hand. Regardless of our great mutual friendship the Centurion accomplished the duty with swift precision and ordered myself to be held down; but instead of instructing an underling to drive the nails into my wrists and ankles, the Centurion performed the task instead. When I felt the cold metal stabbing through the flesh and snapping apart the bone and tendons, I turned to observe the Centurion's face. The expression was impassive, almost drugged. Strange, I thought. However I recalled this same look once before under similar circumstances. Anyway, I was summarily hung and left to die out in the afternoon sun, the odious torment almost too much to bear. The Centurion turned about and marched away, the dust billowing up from the stomping heels. I watched as the Centurion ambled away as if without a care or concern for the one sworn a solemn promise to and instead to left to die.

I happen to be at a loss how I accomplished the feat, but I did it. The long arduous process of working first the wrists then the ankles over the heads of nails seemed almost impossible, implausible. -But there it was, I had done it just as I alluded to in the start of this relation. Perhaps it was the apparent faulty construct of the flattened heads. They did appear smallish upon recollection. Does it matter? The means to the end I mean, when the end meant living and not death. Odd life had become, for I felt at that moment that I would die instead on the barren ground than on the side of the scaffold. Exhausted and spent, I simply clawed my way to the spindly shade of the wooden frame. I blacked out. Every movement was agony and ache. I don't remember how long I had been there: a minute, a day, an hour or two? I cannot say. I suddenly felt the presence of another. My grasp of time was laid waste and I thought to myself I had been found at the exact moment I had been hung. I allowed my eyes to flutter open. Through the slits of my lids I gleaned the form of the Centurion standing there gazing with sadness down on me. My mind awash in bemusement, I could only frown as I never have. I did so even more than what I had permitted in all my days of fighting. I sensed that the Centurion wanted to turn away. Yes, this was the case. I could feel it. Something snapped within me and I managed to bring myself up to standing with a fey sort of quickness. The Centurion's head shook, silently telling me not to continue.
"I have tremendous will," I told the Centurion.
The Centurion in turn looked at me, the countenance shifting to and fro from melancholy to apathy. Alarmed by this I swung my arms around the Centurion and kissed the cheek of its owner.

Is thus found to be abnormal, aberrant, outlandish to the sane mind? I know not. I only know that the wounds from this life's interlude eventually swallowed me, consumed my soul and left me here allegedly wasted to tell this story.

Like I said I have tremendous will. My spirit as well possesses a vengeful heart and lacks a merciful drive. Over thousands of years now I have inhabited the abodes of the original accuser that had ordered my crucifixion and every single damned descendent. I know how to appear benign and innocent but I am anything but. Again I tell you of my tremendous will. I shall leave no blood of the accuser unscathed. I will by God eradicate and erase every one of them from existence within the physical and beyond. Oh yes they're all here with me, even given these thousands of years. They are all, living and dead at the crux of their matter.

As for the Centurion, that is a story untold and lived through an eyewitness account alone. Through the mists of my memory it shall remain, swirling and whirling for me and only me to encompass.


With that he smiled gleefully. His flickering form barely kept into a virtual solid. He leaned against the doorway with the ancient armor still strapped on him, a rusty and bloodied short sword laid across his lap. I let my gaze take in the rest of him. As my eyes wandered they found the deep scars in his wrists and ankles from those spikes he spoke of. The stigmatic marks shown unassuming of which those zealous Christians covet (like the ones I am employed by to dispense of this "evil spirit"). I could not hold him much longer using my methods. After all he had perfected his art over the "thousands of years" during his so-called existence. I started to acquire the feeling that he was only toying with me, making me think that I was the one in control. This lead me to think about what he had just shared. I don't know why he had related this particular story to me. Was it a lesson for my overconfidence at defeating him? Was it an allegory to justify his unbelievable presence?

"You most definitely did not defeat me," he said in a hollow voice.

His sudden revelation startled me out of my introspection. He had lifted himself to standing to grasp the sword in his left hand. I summoned my strength to hold him back, but he strode forward slowly all the same then chose to stop.

"Let me tell you about my inexhaustible will," he said with an easy grin, his eyes peering from the recess of his golden helmet, it being a battered and broken semblance of better days.
"But there are parts of your story that make no sense," I said.
"And you do?" he questioned.
"What could you mean by that?"
"You are gifted yes. But you are clueless and misguided. What did you hope to gain coming here?"
"You already know I suppose."
"So then you possess the capacity to learn wisdom as well as knowledge. It's too bad really, now such a waste."
"Waste?"
"Worry not. Nothing concerns you anymore. Let go of your mercenary's crusade. Your clients are replete idiots. They always have been since the beginning."
"You hide much in your story."
"You hide nothing in your presence."
"We seem to be at an impasse."
"No, you are at the impasse. I am merely here."
"Who was the Centurion really?" I said, changing the subject.
He remained silent. The smile faded from his face. He looked with a starkness at a place off to my left.
I continued, "I don't get it. Why hide who the Centurion was? You're leaving these pieces out."
He stepped closer to me, his armor clinking at the movement.
He said, "You don't become what I have become from experiences of savage tedium. You must carry with you the wit and will to delve into places you'd never go. You must place yourself at the most uncomfortable position imaginable and remain there for the duration. You only have had the will for a minute taste of what I speak. On your present road you tread, you shall march to a much different place. However, this is the way of things in a normal sense. You are not far from that regardless of you preconceived self realization. Yes your path is mostly skewed from how humans exist in this world, but in the end you will be no different than them."
"But you failed to answer my question."
"No, it is you that fails, in every way. You confidence in your abilities has thwarted you from a certain greatness. I learned long ago as the soldier I once was that confidence in oneself is a fleeting and fickle concept. It leads one to believe that they are something else entirely. No. You must instead be the thing you are, nothing more or less than that. Only then can you ascertain the truth of things."
"Riddles-"
"-Another name."
"Can you not speak plain?"
"You did not come here to speak, but to vanquish. Has your goal changed then? Surely your clients are anxious for a full report disclosing success. Why do you hesitate my friend? You, a 'purveyor of truth and righteousness,' one respected for 'goodness' against the forces of evil, but really an entrepreneur collecting from the highest bidder! What am I to you but the snake to be crushed upon your heel? You stand there wavering and wondering if I shall reveal secrets behind your unassuming feminine façade. What you do not realize is that if I open the floodgates of those sought-out mysteries you would be begging me to dam the flow sooner than you may think. Oh and do you believe I should say, 'I'll get the beavers' to construct a proverbial dammed blockade to protect your swelling mind? I may, yes. Although, it would not assist you. It would be too late."
"Who was the Centurion then?"
"Who is anyone? What does it matter to you?"
"Curiosity."
"Ah yes, so that's it," he said with an edge of sarcasm.
"Who were they?"
"A multifaceted individual. Complex but simple; you have no idea what you ask."
He drew nearer. His form became wispy like a cloud then with just as much abruptness solidified right in front of me. It was almost as if he were human again. The smell of leather, iron, blood, and something else unidentifiable permeated the room. He struck out his hand and grasped my throat. Surprised at its warmth, almost hot, I gasped.
"So you demonstrate your bafflement very well," he mocked with a laugh; then added "and how ironic is that?"
He then held the point of his sword to press into the flesh just above my beating heart. It felt real. It was real.
"So this is it then," I stated.
"You tell me. If you thirst for the knowledge you allude to, then well, the time for talk has ended."
"What?"
"Really, your lack of perception is quite tiring."
With that he stabbed a mortal wound through me with awesome strength, drawing back abruptly before thrusting to skewer with so much maniacal determination. I had no time to react and took the brunt of the blow through my lower ribs. Warm blood seeped out in cadence with my heartbeat. As I fell to the floor all trace of him had disappeared. He had won and I had lost. It was cruelly that simple.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Party time!

“Wasssssssuuuuuuuuuuuuuup?”
“Really?” A disgusted look crossed my face as Tony sidled into my room. “I mean, really?”
“What? It’s a about time it had a comeback,” said Tony.
“No.”
“Not eve…”
“No. Not even, not ever.” Tony flicks the door closed, moves over to the fridge and grabs himself a beer. “So, what’s up?” I realize my mistake as the words slip from my mouth. Tony shoots me an amused look as he pops the top off of the drink.
“We err, well,” Tony falls down in to the chair across from me. “We might have a slight, err, financial issue.” This piques my interest, but I try to play it cool.
“When aren’t we in financial trouble?” It was somewhat true. We bounced a long from week to week, just making enough money to get by and blagging our way through everything else.
“Well, summer’s coming up, and we’ve run out of options.” Summer was our off season, it was when things were at their worst. In the past we’d always managed to get through by saving through the prosperous winter and spring months.
“What about credit cards?”
Tony shook his head. “We’ve maxed them all.”
“We’ll get new ones,” the look on Tony’s face bore the grim news before he opened his mouth.
“The banks wont go near us until we’ve paid off our current cards and overdrafts.”
“Well.” The single word hung in the air as I ran through the year, trying to work out when everything had gone wrong. “Fuck.”
“That’s pretty much my thoughts.” Tony took a long pull on his Bud.
For four years being a College Party Planner had paid off. I’d been 22 when I first saw Van Wilder and that was inspiration to say no to the corporations, no to suits and ties and yes to sleeping in till noon and getting paid to party. For four years we’d managed to survive. We’d built a reputation, and not just in CUNY where I’d graduated, but through out New York and into New Jersey. For four years my parties were legend.
And they still were. Nothing had changed in that respect, but now budgets were bigger and profit margins were smaller. We’d seen it happen but hadn’t been able to work out what to do about it.
“Fuck,” I said again as the realization of it all began to strike home. “We have a full schedule for graduation week though, how is this possible?” The reason we’d chosen New York was the density of colleges. Only California had more, but they were spread further.
“That will see us good for about a month, but after that we’ve got nothing.” Bringing Tony on board was probably the greatest idea I’d had. He was good with money, investing some here, stashing more away there, turning my one man operation in to something more successful.
“Any thoughts?” I asked. Tony often had a back up plan, it was just the way his mind worked.
“Well.” I could see him working it out. “We could go big.”
“We are going big. That’s the theme of the Hunter party.”
“No.” He drank again from the bottle in his hand. “I mean, massive. Like, Big McLargehuge.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Well, and this is just me runnin’ free at the moment.” That was Tony’s way of saying that he’d not had chance to go over every minute detail. When he got like this is was something special. “We could throw a party, like a college party, but not for college kids.” I must have looked like a confused dog. “Listen. College parties are cool Everybody is young, free and able to do shit they’ll live to regret. After college, parties just become drinks in a bar or dinner around a table, right?” He was rambling, words flying from his mouth the moment they entered his brain.
“But we could, err, rent, a place. Throw a party there, a college party, but for people our age. Those that have left college but uh, never really grew up.”
“You want us to throw a public frat party?” The words felt dirty, but in the same way the young, half cut blonde feels dirty: in all the right ways.
“Yes, well. You’re over simplifying it. We’d need to pull in something big, like a celebrity or a football team. And we need to throw it where there’s money.”
***
Ten days later I was stepping off of a plane at SFO in a (rented) Armani suit. The Ray Bans were mine.
A chauffeur was waiting for me inside the terminal, my name proudly presented to the world. I strolled up to him, shook his hand and we were off. The first place we were heading to was the library. Well, it used to be a library. It’d closed down a few years back, and it was now unused.
The ancient stone building loomed large on the corner of it’s block. It looked to be four stories high, but a floor plan Tony had found showed it to be only three internally. That meant massive ceilings. It wasn’t until I stepped inside that I really got an idea of how grandiose the building truly was. For what we had in mind, this was perfect. I pulled out my iPhone and started shooting photos and videos to send back to Tony. After a quick half hour tour of the main areas, I was back in the limo.
***
Our palms met and I quickly covered his hand with both of mine, and gave it the old “double pump”. I probably shook a little too hard, his Californian skin gave to my calloused New Yorker hands. Somehow, even in my cushy line of work, I’d ended up with skin like a football.
“Nice to meet you,” I said, releasing his hand and pulling my business card holder from my suit pocket.
“No, it’s nice to meet you. I’m Jeff, I spoke to Tony on the phone.”
“My Tony?” My surprise amused him as he chuckled slightly.
“No, our man in New York state, Tony Ferdanno. He had nothing but good things to say about you.” We moved to some soft leather sofas, a glass coffee table between us.
“Well that’s always good to hear. You obviously know why I’m here. We’re looking to expand our operation, and San Fran is going to be our west coast base.” I cringed as soon as the words left my mouth. Again, Jeff chuckled. This was good, it meant he was after my business. I don’t know who Tony Ferdanno was or what he’d been saying about us, but thank fuck for him.
“It’s alright, everybody makes that mistake. If you want to sound like you know what’s going on, you should just call it San Francisco or the city.” That last one offended my inner New Yorker, there was only one city in America, and San Fran wasn’t it. But I let my poker face do the talking.
“Thanks.” I smiled and shrugged it off. “We’re throwing a party, a big, ‘We’ve arrived in the city’,” a nod to Jeff and he smiled. “It’s going to be big. Bigger than big.” Where you come in is making sure that we have enough beer and spirits to last the night out.”
“What kind of volume are we looking at?” I slid the folder across the table. Jeff opened it and scanned the pages inside. He actually whistled as he read over the amount of alcohol we were asking for.
“What’s,” he slid the folder back towards me, “this number?” I knew without looking what number he was talking about.
“That’s what we’re going to pay you.” Jeff leaned back in his chair and steepled his fingers. Fun time was over.
“That’s going to be a problem. We’d make a loss if we sold it to you for that.”
“I know.”
“I’m sorry, the impression I got was that you were a serious businessman. Clearly this has been a waste of my time.”
“We can dance around this, running figures back and forth, each trying to get the other line with our own ideas, but ultimately, this is what you’re going to charge us. In return, we’ll be throwing 3 parties a week in your direction by the end of our second month here and if you flick to the back page,” the folder traversed the table again, “you’ll see what our projected payments to you will be in a years time.”
Jeff looked at the folder as if it might bite him. I’d clearly caught his interest. After a minute he picked up the folder again and flicked to the 12 month projections. No whistles this time, just a nod and a grin that crept slowly across his face.
“Tony told me you were a shrewd businessman.” I stood, straightening my suit.
“Jeff, I told you that’s the price we’d pay you.”
***
“The venue is awesome, and we’re sorted for for supplies. We still need guests.”
“I’m working on it.” Tony was still working hard back in New York whilst I’d been pressing the flesh. “I’ve been working through our phone book and I’ve got something special brewing. Just, bear with me.”
“I’m starting to think that as busy as you are, that I got the raw end of the deal.”
”An all expenses paid trip to San Francisco versus New York 23 hour work days. I can see how you came off worse.”
“You’re not wearing suits in the 90 degree heat.”
***
The last two weeks had been crazy. But tonight would be the night it all came together.
Or fell apart.
Tony arrived last night and had finally filled me in on the last pieces of the puzzle. He’d gone through everybody that’d hired our services. Turns out we’d thrown parties for future surgeons. Layers, social media experts and entrepreneurs. Tony had come up with a plan to get free flights from New York to S. F. For anybody that bought a full price ticket, all we had to do was comp one of our clients a set of ten tickets. Small price to pay for some of the names we’d got.
As I ran down the list my jaw slowly dropped further. I knew these people by reputation. How was it possible that I’d thrown them parties?
“Tony? When did we throw a party for him?” Tony leaned over, steal fixing his bow tie. “Or her?”
“We didn’t, but you know how rumor mills work. One person here’s about a private jet filled with the young and the rich headed to a party…” I shook my head in amazement. There were no A List celebrities on there, but a few C Listers and a B Lister. Two B Listers.
“You’ve out done yourself,” I said, turning to look at him. “Why are you getting dressed up now? You’ll get your suit creased.” He moved his head over to the closet.
“Tonight’s suit’s in there. But I need to look my part for when I get to the airport.”
“I thought most of the guests weren’t landing until later.”
“True, but the Oregon State Football team are flying in early.”
“Oregon State Football team? The entire team?”
“Yeah, turns out that they don’t get many chances to party up there.” I flipped over the guest list and sure enough, it appeared to be the entire roster.
“You really have out done yourself. Listen,” I rested my hand on his shoulder. “You take it easy. I’ll get the Beavers.”

Friday, April 8, 2011

Proper Attire Required

"Girls! Girls! Stop your gossipping and finish getting dressed. You're on in thirty minutes!"

Miss St. Clair was always a worry-wart, but when no fewer than four of her actual and an additional five of her honorary nieces were named semi-finalist in the Miss Coal to Newcastle pageant, her tendencies ramped up into full-on fretting. The gauge on her chest, measuring the internal pressure of the boiler which powered her circulatory, respiratory and nervous systems had been well in the red all morning. And now --

"Naomi! What in the world do you think you're going to do with that, that THING?"

"It's part of our costumes, Auntie Pris," Naomi replied, all innocence. "Do you see? It's all the rage on the Continent just now."

"It's hideous!" Ms. St. Clair sputtered. "I can't even tell what it is!"

"It's a hat, silly," Naomi's sister Dolores said. Naomi hissed; Pris St. Clair took even less kindly than most people to being belittled or humored. This could get ugly.

"A hat? A HAT? It looks like it was woven out of dead reeds right out of the swamp!" Miss St. Clair said, snatching it from Naomi's fingers. It crackled like dried vegetation, too, fueling the old woman's argument.

"It reminds us," Dolores said, standing up to her full and lofty height -- towering over her aunt -- "Of our natural, organic origins. It is a token of nostalgia for simpler times. It is too divine!"

"It is too destroyed now," Miss St. Clair said, shoving it and its mates -- carelessly left on the dressing table by the rest of the girls -- into her personal furnace. The hinges to the right of her ample iron bosom creaked loudly.

"You need some oil, Auntie," Naomi said.

"I'll thank you to focus on what YOU need. Namely proper costumes. I shudder to think what ensemble you girls think might possibly go with such hats."

"Aw, you worry too much, Auntie," another niece, whose name Miss St. Clair could not recall, opined. "Trust us! We've been preparing for months!"

"Months? MONTHS? Miss Coal of Newcastle is the event of a LIFETIME. You should have been preparing for YEARS. Whatever were your mothers thinking?

"Well, go ahead, show me the rest of these... outfits."

Miss St. Clair's cries of horror were surely destined to go down in family, if not pageant, history, imitated with glee by future generations. They resounded far beyond the dressing room as her charges modeled their grass skirts and coconut bras (which, when punctured by a freshly enameled prosthetic finger-blade, produced a sparkling stream of coconut milk to be caught in another coconut shell held by the next girl in line).

"This simply WILL NOT DO," Miss St. Clair bellowed. Puffs of steam began to escape the seams around the furnace door in her chest, and from her joints. Her nieces backed away in alarm, crowding up against the far wall of the little room.

"Auntie Pris, you're making our skirts wilt," one complained, looking down at herself in distress. Indeed, the rapidly rising humidity Miss St. Clair's distress was causing was having a deleterious effect on the girls' "organic" attire.

"Be quiet, be quiet, I must THINK!" The rapidly overheating old woman sat down on one of the dressing-table stools, which promptly collapsed under the weight of her mostly-iron frame. So lost in thought was she, however, that she barely noticed this.

"DANIEL! DANIEL MORRAINE! I need you at once!" She said into a microphone in her wrist.

"Ma'am! That's a ladies dressing room, ma'am!" a tinny voice issued from the same place.

"You are not really male, Daniel. You are an automaton. Automatate in here right now!"

"Takes one to know one, you old bat" the tinny voice said, at slightly lower volume, but perhaps not low enough.

"I heard that, Daniel," Miss St. Clair warned.

The girls had barely stopped tittering before the dressing room door opened wide to admit what to outward appearances was a small tank. Steam-powered like his mistress, Daniel Morraine clanked into the room and immediately saw the problem.

"Ma'am, where are their clothes, ma'am?" His voice sounded exactly as it had when coming from Miss St. Clair's wrist -- because it still did.

"They think those ARE clothes," Miss St. Clair huffed. "What can we do?"

Gears clanked and chittered as the two of them pondered the situation.

"Ma'am, what is next door, ma'am?" Daniel asked after a moment.

"I believe it is the gentlemen's dressing room," Miss St. Clair said -- for Miss Coal to Newcastle was an equal opportunity pageant, despite the name.

"Ma'am, I have an idea, ma'am. If you don't mind a little larceny, ma'am."

"Do tell!" Miss St. Clair clapped her iron hands as daintily as she could. The girls watched in horror; those hands could crush a man's skull.

***

"My Daniel has saved the day!" Miss St. Clair proclaimed, bustling back into the dressing room. Her servitor followed close behind her. The arms of both were draped in black fabric with a subtle sheen.

Miss St. Clair unfolded the garments -- for garments they were -- with a flourish. Nine pairs of slim-fitting men's dress trousers, nine dinner jackets with tails, nine white pique vests, nine blindingly white men's dress shirts, nine collars, and nine white ties. A tiny truck-like automaton entered then, bringing black silk socks, black patent shoes, white spats and white canes.

"You'll look enchanting in these. Quickly! We haven't much time!" Miss St. Clair said, shooting her girls a stern look. Rather than argue any longer, they hastened to comply, and soon stood in a smart row. They did indeed look charming in men's evening clothes.

"But what about the gentlemen next door?" Dolores asked. "Ow!"

"They must fend for themselves. They haven't such able folk looking after their interests," Miss St. Clair replied. She rolled back and forth along the line. "Something still is missing. What is it, Daniel? What?"

"Ma'am, I think they need toppers, ma'am."

"Good lord! How could we miss that. Quickly! See what else is in the room next door. Surely there is something!"

"Ma'am, there is, ma'am. I'll get the beavers."

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Winter No More

I am but a shard of flotsam whirling on the surface of a fierce and magnificent maelstrom. How indeed did I achieve this state of existence? I know not. I gaze out onto the fragrant harbor covered in the misty droplets of the condensing moisture; a cooling wave crests over the whole immense span. She is out there, out there amongst the shiny and twinkling buildings, shifting, moving discreetly between them with form and grace.
I feel the tug, the pull of her, drawing me into her center. All I can do is wait.
Wait.
I will now become utterly succumbed to her terrifying but beautiful storm. Her breath like the winds of legend that lowly mariners would resist mentioning even when they found themselves at an un-guessable distance from their beloved sea.
It's like eternity, this presence, the present.
All I can do is await her coming; her eyes of blustery lightening on the brimming whip of thunder that closes in heralding her imminent arrival.
I shall welcome her with all my heart; this heart of mine that has always been so fractured and frayed into the unraveling threads of potential yesterdays. Their tattering remnants nothing of their former full and stretching sails, but more or less writhing wraiths shrieking without power.
Do I hope so much and expect so little?
It has always been like this, until now.
Until now the riveting sensation of dichotomous dread and sweet anticipation ravages at the psyche like banshees of old. It is what it is. I must accept what has been given, and for dire outcomes or not, the consequences.


***

The night felt warm to me, a strange occurrence since I thought I was somewhere else completely. I could discern the slapping of water against something rigid and uncompromising, like those ancient fortresses with walls that could repel even the crushing missiles flung from a medieval trebuchet. I kept my eyes closed, for perhaps I thought I could trick myself into visualizing where I was first before my sight would betray my mind’s eye. First I attempted to recollect the immediate preceding time, but to no avail. Nothing could be extracted from the short term’s memory no matter how deep I delved into those labyrinthine reaches. The outside influence from the unseen ambiance portrayed itself as catastrophic to my failing concentration. Finally, I decided to abandon this course, for I could hear a distant shout invading all thought-process. It sounded off like an order from a superior to a subordinate. The urgency was present, but it did not cast itself in desperation. Nothing followed except the swish of the wind that at times whistled past other formations I could only imagine. My eyes remained shut, for truthfully I wasn’t sure I even wanted my ignorance to subside. The air still felt warm despite the onset of the blowing air that licked at the ends of my hair and picked it up to toss it about. The strong stench of salt-tinged air wafted into my insufflations, flooding my nostrils with that familiarity that piqued at my mind’s reminiscence.

Suddenly I bolted upright from my prone position and took a swift intake of breath. I snapped my eyes open and looked about, trying to understand what all along my unconscious had already determined. I somehow was brought onto a ship. I had been set down along the gunwale, my wrists bound with a rope and my legs clasped from movement at the ankle by the same. I squinted at these bindings in confusion, not understanding what or why I was to be here like this. I was dressed in material of rough weave but loose throughout. My feet were bare as were my hands. My leggings were dark brown and came down to mid-calf and tattered at the hem, as were the sleeves of my black shirt. I turned my right forearm over to the underside and witnessed a crudely needled and inked rendition of a raven’s skull missing its lower mandible with two curved scimitars forming an “X” set behind the ghastly image. As my vision began to clear I twisted my head to and fro scanning the deck of the ship and noticed I was on what appeared to be a three-mast merchant vessel. A deep and dark night loomed beyond making the ocean to blend with the black sky. It was then I could feel the ship’s movement across the water, which was not at all as calm as I first believed. Easy and steady swells about two to three meters high came at the ship bow-wise and slightly to the starboard creating a slight alternating list to the ship. The sails fluttered and flapped in the wind that seemed to crescendo in its strength like a great hammer plummeting toward an anvil set aglow in a blacksmith’s forge. I could make out darting figures, jumping up masts and materializing from below decks, grasping ropes, cinching, loosening, and tightening. A peel of lightening unexpectedly ripped horizontally across a fractured and frayed storm cloud which was all-too-quickly followed by a deafening tumult of thunder causing these figures in white to lash their hands across their ears. I felt a charge of energy course through my body at the onset of this storm. My senses became heightened, and proverbial instincts set themselves alight within me, although I had no idea from whence they originated.
Had I been on a ship before? Did I innately understand and comprehend the workings of such a vessel with its intertwined intricacies that would normally stun the average bloke into cluelessness?

The ship tossed and bucked in the rising waves, the current pulling us in some other direction than what was intended. I could feel this without knowing the actual truth. The sense of defeat aboard as evident as being forced to bite down on a sheet of tin scraped bare. I tried to stand but it was too difficult given the limited mobility of my legs, the ties disallowing my feet to stance outward to stabilize. Things not tacked down on the deck’s surface began to roll and slide back and forth along the topside due to the storm’s ever-increasing rage. One of the white figures fell from above from where I only surmised was one of the sailors attempting to furl the sails so that the masts would not yield and splinter from the sheer grotesque pressure of the howling wind that wrenched at each and every sail. His body struck the deck with a sickening thud while a bare knife was knocked loose from his belt. I could see the man was dead as I coolly swept the knife up from being tossed overboard by the tilting ship as it slid. As soon as I clutched the crude double-edged dagger in my left hand, my heart gave a great cry of relief at the imminent release of my limbs. I took hold of the dagger with both sets of fingers and pivoted the knife downwards so that the blade bisected the span of biting twine at my wrists. As much as I was able to muster, I forced the knife down across the taut rope and pushed and pulled with hardly sufficient stroke bending harshly at the wrist. My avid concentration endured the severe pelting of the storm’s rain, however it could not, would not stand up to what happened next, whatever that was. For right as those bonds were about to break apart having been frayed and sliced painstakingly over much egregious effort, all the world and the consciousness of that fact went irrevocably and utterly black…

***

Sometimes in dreams you and I, we’re on some ancient wooden ship, it’s night under a waning moon, we lie on our backs and look up at the stars that are accompanied by full sails under a stiff wind pushing across a faraway sea. I see your silhouette over me as you twist upwards, you tell me something then place your face over mine, and your hair drapes down and tickles my cheeks, your hand embraces mine, our fingers interlace. I taste your sweet lips pressed hard against my own, then they open slightly to allow a lashing of your warm tongue to stroke softly at me that holds me captive. I dare to whisk my fingers and splay them apart to sweep those long black locks away from your face. My thumbs lightly embrace your temples while the remaining working implements of my hands cling to the nape of your neck. You kiss me more deeply, this time biting down on my bottom lip. I follow suit and latch onto yours, and then what follows is extraordinary; for you and I remain slightly twisting at the necks, hands and arms moving into graceful embraces like undulating coral to the undersea currents. I can feel my very soul become tugged through to intermingle with your corporeal self, and yours into my own. We remain locked in this eternal kiss, as if our lives coexisted only for its sustainment. Then like the waves of a spraying and seething ocean gently receding from the shore, each of us senses the time to withdraw from each other, serene and sublime smiles of enraptured delight cast upon our faces. We gaze at each other as you gradually lay your head down on my shoulder. You nestle there for a moment breathing deep, your exhalations emitting a hum of your sanguine voice. You spellbind me, and all I am able to do is simply listen as I return my eyes to the stars. I imagine us up there in the heavens, sailing across the black unknown rather than across this foamy and swelling sea to wherever we head. At each hum, I am reminded little by little of how your presence waylays my sorrow, of how I somehow am contented in spite of the horrors I’ve been witnessed to, the gut-wrenching grief and painful dea–…

***

The Sun descended its harsh illumination. I squinted against its onslaught. Through my barely opened eyelashes, I saw the moving shadows of an assembled line of men of authority. I thought I distinguished crossed arms, grim expressions, stern countenances, and resolute demeanors. The thud of thick boots against waterlogged decking was unmistakable as was the murmuring of fate itself. My eyes adjusted slowly to the blazing light. This time my back was lashed against a mast, forcing my posture to straight and narrow. My hands behind me, all I could do was look up from a downcast face. One of them held a rolled parchment of a rather large sheaf and flung his arm in my direction. God help me, but I had no clue what was going on in this place. One minute I was left as an artificial semi-mobile invalid in the midst of a tenebrous tempest, and the next lashed ever so carefully to full immobility in a seemingly becalmed sea. The metallic taste of irony laced itself across my waking pensiveness. Why I am here? What could I have done? Who were these men, and what were their intentions?
I glanced back down at my arm where the vacant eyes of that sword-pierced skull stared languid up at me, the unnatural beak’s upper teeth almost appearing as if each were filed to a point. My tongue ran over my own upper mandible as if to reassure itself that the same condition did not exist within myself. An onslaught of melancholy reverberated through me. Why, I couldn’t guess. There was something I was missing; some memory that I constantly attempted to allow a tangible resurfacing but to no avail. Oh God! What has become of me here, on this weathered ship of creaking timber and sun-silhouetted dismal humanoid forms? Why could not I obtain that clear image; that crystalline consciousness and awareness that makes us all differentiated from the mindless animals? I shook my head as if a drunkard grasping at a shred of sobriety, the harsh seaward Sun basking its fiery rays upon my heavy-lidded burned face. Suddenly a man, presumably an officer of this vessel that had been speaking to the man with the parchment marched over to me and grabbed a hold of my chin, pinching it between his clutching fingers. He forced my mouth open, which made me feel like some horse being inspected for some purpose just before the bidding was to start. I made no move, except my eyes focused on his opposing hand, the back of which swiped fiercely from my left to right, until…

***

My mind swims in the rum; that rendered sweetness from the cane so callously cut down and processed by those destitute souls of the local feudal populace. I had gone through about a quarter of the bottle, my thoughts wild and untamed through a fog of near drunkenness. Music plays from somewhere by some merry band of spontaneously arranged sailors, who had gathered most probably for the first and last time. There was never going to be a moment like this ever again. Whatever this scenario, there would never be another like it, or even similar; for death is sure would touch at least one of us at the next juncture, thusly impeding all of time that would pass to come. Somehow I know this; the thought manifests itself strongly despite the rum-laced skew of the immediate surroundings. I go outside myself, looking at this poor pathetic creature that only just looked like me, so sad and despondent with how he had gotten to this point. The rum serves only to numb him from the endless pain he feels, the constant tinge of ache that lays leaden upon his soul. From my vantage above and outside myself, I see with it such clarity, such vivid and lucid realization that it almost seems that all the mysteries of the Universe are related to me with total comprehension before suddenly being slammed back into my own body and being forced to forget that vision of all that would have set me free. Only the loss of this latter item leaves a trace within my reminiscence of the instantaneous deluge of foresight, of which I begin to grieve tremendously. Just as I am within the apex of my lamenting this very thing, she comes up to me from behind and to the right and lays her hand upon my shoulder, her touch soft but yet strong. I turn, to which she uses my momentum to twist me upon the stool to totally face her. Two angular black eyes are turned upwards at me, bright and resolute. They are framed by a thick plait of long atramentous hair parted slightly off to the side that rests and is suspended by a pair of high cheekbones. The corners of her mouth are upturned as her hands take hold of both my upper arms. With bemusement, I raise an eyebrow at her wondering what it could possibly be that demands my attention from my own downhearted introspection. She shakes herself as if in disbelief that I do not comprehend her intention (which I do not). She indicates with her head that we should proceed to the center of the common room, of which turned out to be in closer vicinity to the band of players.
“Don’t you know who I am?” she inquires in thickly accented tones, of which origin I could not identify but was familiar nonetheless.
I look at her more closely, with a severity that did not seem to faze her. Instead she glances over at the musicians, a raggedy bunch that up until had been playing the sort of thing that every privateer here knew and enjoyed, almost upon penalty of death if it wasn’t played, or anything in its place for that matter.
She lifted up her hand and called over to them, “El invierno, no muy.”
“What?” I ask her.
Instead she whips back to me and places her finger against my lips.
“But you know me, yes?”
“I don’t, I don’t know–” I am interrupted by the players who start playing curiously. Their fiddles suddenly and softly toss out these notes at a constant rhythm more akin to those from the mainland assemble into great halls for with all their pomp. The music finally crescendos to an apex where one now transformed “violinist” stands alone amidst those that back him up with that before-mentioned rhythm. Then he drops back and joins his fellows where they all sync back into unison. I feel a tug. She pulls me by the arm off my seat and leads me to the center. She has tears in her eyes looking at me. In turn I am rather astounded, but there is a small part of me that is struck, a region within me that is jolted into some other reminiscence. I could not place it.
“But I do somehow,” I managed to say from a source other than myself.
She smiled sadly, the tears continuing to well like a newly formed spring. All I could do is stand there, dumbfounded. What could I say to her, with the salty warm drops now streaming from her glistening black eyes, the depths of which tore through me, into my very soul? The sensation of this very thing happening before that descends upon me like a crashing wave of the sea, so relentless and uncaring in its reckless power.
“And who do you think I am?” she whispered…


***

“You were the one who led us into the maelstrom.”
The statement was uttered flatly, without emotive issue. It was as if were some non-human, some kind of creature sent from the gods to tear our souls apart for its own pleasure. All I could do was to return his stare as blankly as I could, for my mind reflected a pervading blankness.
“What, you have no rebuttal, no explanation?” the voice continued.
I continued my silence. I thought it better not to say a word. The alternatives, an account of either a lie or a truth would make no difference. Either assertion would be met with the same fate, but perhaps silence would lead them to believe I was a mental invalid, for whatever that would be worth.
“There is no escape from this. You were caught fair and square. You have been identified by your brotherhood’s mark. The fact that you were restrained and captured without the ridiculous ritualistic ‘fight to the death’ adage of your unfortunate compatriots is nothing short of a miracle. However, as expected we have not been able to extract a shred of useful information from you despite our efforts to persuade you to speak. This is your last chance. Tell us. Tell us and we’ll, well I am sure you have been apprised of the potential methods to render your soul from your body?”
I honestly could not recall anything the “un-human” was referring to. The maelstrom, being caught, my so-called brotherhood, a surmised torture…none of it sounded at all familiar to me. The expression of puzzlement must have been implanted on my face, because the “un-human” gazed at me with avid disgust.
“Take him away,” said the voice with a wave of its hand. The “un-human” directly proceeded to the next task on its docket, whatever that may have been. My hands were bound again, and I was led by a henchman with a trained pistol, its bluish metallic barrel unwavering in its intent if I were to try anything outside of the scope of my transport. The door to the cabin opened by someone outside. I stepped out onto the hot ship’s deck under a blazing Sun; where about twenty pairs of eyes gawked at me with unmistakable odium. They had all ceased what they were doing to turn their heads in my direction. They all had expected it, anticipated it.
I felt that invisible cord of my temper slacken, shred and fray. From some mysterious depth of myself, I recognize an inimitable repugnance for each and every one of these men. My own eyes darkened as I was being directed toward a “device,” or implement of putting the condemned to death by cruciation. Why, I cannot say, but I recognized this apparatus. The accused would be hung upside-down by two opposing spikes being inserted into the hips to latch onto the bone, then what would follow was truly horrific: second, a metal barbed prong was to be inserted into the anus of the prisoner to which the barb would grab hold of rectum, then would snap backward to completely disembowel the…

***

“I want to always stay like this,” she imparts in her lovely voice, her embrace as soft as a spring ocean breeze at the onset of the impending afternoon heat in lands of tropical waters. We lay on a bundle of sails wrapped loosely along the edge of the ship’s bulwark. All I could do is nod to her, for the utter rapture she had leaden upon me made me feel as if there is some impending doom, some imminent destruction as a backlash, as an equal and opposite reaction to the absolute Heaven-on-Earth she makes me sense in every part of my being. I feel avid anguish despite the paralleled bliss she bestows on me even now. She leans on her right arm, her body twisted onto her side looking down on me. I gaze up at her, and behind her arrays a diadem of stars as if she were some heavenly angel, my savior from a horrible fate. The night air is so clean and fresh, or is it the fact that she is here so close to me? I always sense this from her whenever I am with her, for she as is portrayed within my mind surrenders all Nature to her, be it completely natural or caused by Man.
“Love,” she says.
“Yes?”
She brushes back my hair from my forehead then leans down to kiss, her lips gently brushing there. I feel as if this is a dream, but the awareness is so severe that I think to myself that is just can’t be. I find the paradox of myself here in this place with her like this staggering. The calm and ease of which she infuses within me so powerful and overwhelming to my customary pugnacious self. My usual infuriated spirit that begets hostile and impetuous violence to a time no longer than in a blink of an eye dissipates from the relative evenness like a diffusing vapor. I am actually surprised. –And surprise is something in my whole terrible life I had hardly ever undergone experiencing. I mean, it was just a few days ago that I took part in a outlawed campaign that included much hacking with the scimitar, many reloads of the pistol cleaving the spirit from the body, to finally relentless torture of the captured to squeeze out every bloody drop of sustenance that they ripped from us, those bastards of the–
“Love!” she exclaims, breaking me out of my brooding.
“I am sorry, it’s just that–“
“Shhhhh!” she indicates softly with her unturned finger pressed against her full lips.
I stop to look back up at her again. My heart swells with a swirl of longing. She senses this, and stretches up so she is on all fours. She lifts her left leg and extends it over my body to sit atop me. She bends at her waist and I feel all her lovely tendrils splaying over my face, tickling my cheeks, eyes, ears and nose. Her breasts push onto my own, the beat of her heart pummels through with an unsurpassed strength into my own chest. The rhythm impinges itself into our prospective worlds, and sets the cadence of my own heart and the progression of the scene. Like music, she plants her lips on my own with melodious sway. Oh God! My mind calls out to my Creator. –For I discern her anima extending out of her open mouth and my own coming out to intermingle, to enter into each other. She twists her head slightly, taking hold of my lips with her teeth, latching onto me and not letting go. The osculation of our lips’ embrace prolongs and prolongs. I close my eyes as I come to a swoon of those most forceful crush. I hear her deep sigh, the air from her exhaling across my cheeks so hot, cooling them for the moment.
She lifts her head, sucking at my bottom lip so that it almost seems like she will take it with her. She looks back at me with a wide smile and climbs off me, twisting her neck to glance back. I lift up and place my fingers on either side of her neck and graze my impassioned lips on her upper back.
I let my hands smooth down from her neck to her shoulders to which she breathes out a fervent purr. She winds her head toward me allowing her long black tresses to cascade down her back. She opens her mouth slightly and narrows her eyes in lustful repose and hums a little question, “Hmmmm?”
The impetus within my being is brought forth and I enshroud her with my wrapping arms across her stomach. Her tongue finds mine, whipping itself into a flurry of delectability. She raises both her arms to reach around and press the back of my head firmly so that we would not lose touch. Her breathing and my own quicken and quicken into a harmonious tempo. She lowers herself onto her side and somehow we never escape each other’s sweet contact.
“Mmmm love, mmmm,” she breathes.
She releases my head finally and turns to lay on her side and whispers, “Love, please, please.” She reaches down between my legs and strokes my hardened cock until it is literally pulsating with fiery desire to enter her. I place both my palms on her breasts’ nipples and lightly stroke in circles to a crescendo of delicious kneading. Her movements and exotic voice enraptures me, for she shakes and shudders and coils herself in response positioning herself higher so that my long stiffened member still being stroked by her sensuous touch would find the imminent, intended, and desirous course.
In turn she lifts her leg just enough into the air and drives her hips into my own. Then holding onto my dripping shaft, she manipulates it so that the head lashes itself on the outside of her pussy that sends writhing and crackling electricity through my entire form. She brings me to the point of total and utter ravenousness and soul-crushing hunger. My head pierces her clitoris and causes a slight wave of her own wet essence that coats my tip sumptuously in lavish lubriciousness.
“Ohhh my lover, mmmm, now love, now,” she hums. She directs the head into her hot and burning self to which I push sweetly and slowly inside. She lets out a gasp to coincide with my own. Never had I felt such heat, such succulent and heavenly sensation.
“All the way lover, all the way…”
So I impel my hips forward so so slowly. She screams and pants in delicious and impulsive melody as I work my way inside, deeper and deeper. When I reach the hilt, to the utter end I try to start to pull, but she follows my motion and pushes backward and disallows me to extract from her.
“No, love. No, let me.” Then she rolls her body forward so that I am out all the way to the tip quite unexpectedly, but just as quickly she rams herself backward so that her ass pounds into stomach. She shrieks with salivating and primal thirst as she repeats and repeats this until we both are brought to that point in time where a white-hot luminescence floods our vision, and we are transcended to…


***

I rested in a pool of my own hot flowing blood, the source of which spewed from my gut right below that lowest arcing rib. Coppery whisks and whiffs took flight into the air that was once still and hushed, but now were stirred either from the disquiet of the oncoming maelstrom or the one that had just occurred in wild desertion of mutiny among men onboard this ship. The brackish water lapped with forceful shuddering against the ship’s hull as I had discerned it. –But all I could make out was the deepening clouds turning from a lead-gray to a blackening slate. It was almost as if the doom they inscribed upon the concave sky canopy bonded in concert with these recent happenings. My mind was a blur, unable to assemble much of any memory yet again. It was as if the very environs in its avid chaos had duped whatever shred of sanity that I possessed, if any. It was then that I noticed my own exsanguinations had blended and melded with so many others. I detected a body close to mine, flies spinning around it in an angry cloud. I posed the question to myself, how could flies be out here in the middle of this churning ocean about to swallow us whole? How absurd I was thinking this given the circumstances of my sodden arousal. Deep and cleaved slash marks had raked themselves across this unfortunate victim, his mouth open what was presumably amidst his death throe. I felt nothing. In fact, I might have felt a tinge of hatred after I let the sight of him sink in. Then I began to budge from my supine splayed position, my left hand instinctively finding the seeping hole in my viscera and attempted a haphazard staunch of my life oozing out. I extracted my fingers just quickly to scrutinize the damage. The fact that the rust-colored droplets fell heavily upon my neck and chest with indecent splashes from my fingers did not seem to give me any impetus for concern. Why, it cannot be said.
I staggered upward to my knees, my right arm unconsciously stabbing the point of a scimitar into the solid wooden planks of the deck. I gazed down at the weapon in bewilderment, not recalling this implement’s first engagement as I clutched it with my fist. The keen point stuck deep into the board as the blade bent slightly to support myself coming to full height. Immediately I noticed the harsh wind and the commencement of pelting rain. I found myself stabilizing myself on the blade more than expected, for the ship began to list to the port with a definite bias. I felt myself go cold, and I could not tell if this was because of the gaping shot wound in my side by which my life poured out or what I witnessed under the ripping thunderbolts just off about one kilometer in the direction of tilt. The shock white electricity would intermittently illuminate an eddying tornado’s upper mouth on the ocean’s surface. Torrid and foaming brine on the roiling façade allowed me to survey the frightening wide expanse of every sailor’s nightmare. The ship had just entered the middle to outer reach of the horrid spiral; in other words the horrendous point of no return. It did not matter, this puncture in my abdomen ripped open by a hot ball of lead, for all our fate was determined regardless of this outcome of win or loss. Nature conquered, the relentless and sensuous bitch that always walloped down her hammer upon the anvil of the Earth whenever and wherever she so desired. –And in this case, the strike’s epicenter was just out the port side, like a great drain it sucked down all the flotsam within its whipping tentacles. I could only lean against the wooden rail clutching my leaking gut as I calmly watched my fate unfold. I closed my eyes for a moment and attempted to conjure those evasive memories that had up until this point eluded me. Through my self-imposed lack of sight my other senses began to sharpen and absorb without the distraction of the ever-present light. The ever-so-slight crackling of distant thunder accompanied by a harmonious splash and swirl of effervesce of the boiling sea. Suddenly memories of the last moments came flooding back upon witnessing the dead corpses that rested upon the drifting shards of the ship in the seething water below. I caught a glimpse of one’s face, its throat slashed open wide and mouth dangled open in what was presumably the last gurgling breath of that hellacious victim.

***

“Love, you must always take care, for if you were to die on me, how is it?”
“I shall not die my love, I–”
“You do not know this. For does not your allegiance to your own brotherhood set upon you a vow to fight to the death, this most ‘honorable’ method to separate yourself from life? No, I fear you are wrong dear heart. I feel within my own core you shall be ripped from me, you shall be snatched so unceremoniously from my aching breast to leave me here all alone. And then love, who knows when we shall meet again? Oh God love, the fairness is always unjust. Fate that brought us together shall also take away what it has given. ”
I do not know what to say in return, for she is right. What can I do, but hope? Hope beyond hope knowing naught else. She watches me with a sorrow that strikes to the heart. I cannot help but to want to walk over and embrace her to absorb all her pain. But this time I find that I cannot. I am overwhelmed with my own torrent of grief. A miniscule trifling of emotion compared to hers. Hers that is so intense, so vast that it radiates outward with unimaginative power. I have known this about her for so many long years. I know her like no other. For I have always found her despite the ongoing passage of time and the shifting of space itself. I cannot explain it. I have felt her lips touch my own countless times, I have held her in my arms in a myriad of indices, I have fused with her over eternity when the stars themselves were positioned differently than they are in the present and the world’s continents slightly less or more eroded, I have at times caught glimpses of her sailing through those very stars so far from this place in gowns of white and sparkling diadems aglow atop her crown. Each of these instances has always coalesced into a perfect poignancy of garish melancholy and delicious delight. For whatever reason our two paths have always crossed from meandering trails through the darkest of forests, through the most barren of deserts, and through the deadliest of thunderous storms to that of a widened road carved through the landscape to wherever it was to lead. We never know, her and I, we never were brought to the complete knowledge of the purpose. It was only understood that it would happen again and again and again irrespective of time and space and the irreverent situation we would both found ourselves within…


***

Yes, he was the unhuman as I had referred to him before. His face had been ageless in life: his eyes a cold and lackluster blue, skin pinkish and drawn taut over his expressionless skull, his hair a curious gray cropped short, his body hardened from the many long and harsh years at sea. I had remembered his voice being a quiet but firm directive, heartless in its delivery. I thought to myself he must have been out here among the far reaches of the world cavorting among the wide expanse bringing horror and detriment to all that crossed him, although his purpose remain veiled behind his impertinent countenance. It was as if a surface of an ancient glacier had ingratiated itself into humanoid form, monstrous in its conveyance but yet raw and feral in its employ. I didn’t comprehend his existence, whatever it may have been. All I could tell was that I was the reason for it cleaving of its soul from its corporeal self. For in my hazy recollection I could visualize the scathing hack of my scimitar raking a mortal gash across its neck, the blood spraying out purplish and thick upon the deck and open door I had been led through.

He had ordered me out of his quarters to be led to “The Device.” I was not going to lie down to be so cruelly dispatched willingly. On instinct from my brotherhood’s antediluvian vow, I countered the growing despair I sensed and stopped short catching my one of the unhuman’s henchman off-guard. I sidestepped and kicked my foot backward upon sensing his shin butt up against my back leg. As he fell to the hard wooden planks, I spun on my heel and aimed a vicious kick to his ribs further incapacitating him. Before the others could react with any sufficient act, I brought my twined wrist bindings against the sharp edge of his belt-tucked sword and sliced them apart. I quickly squatted as one of the guards swung wildly over my head with a sort of crude cudgel. The weapon had passed harmlessly over. I took advantage of the wielder’s overshot momentum and spun him in the direction of his swing by rising and taking hold of his shoulders to push him. Off the attacker went to the deck, rolling with a thud and striking his head against the boards. I quickly swiped up the scimitar from the first henchman’s belt and ran him through the back making sure to pierce him through his heart with one swift motion. The others came at me at once having caught sight of the mêlée. I wasted no time and hurdled over the now dead henchman, and swung the scimitar down with a whooshing blow at the second attacker’s neck, he who was emerging from being stunned previously. His severed head rolled away as I jumped to the left, seeking to enter the cabin where the unhuman dwelled. Blood seeped into and along the cracks of the boards behind me, pooling with a crescendo-like wave to the doorstep of the unhuman’s quarters. I slammed the door shut behind me as I surveyed the room’s interior. Nothing. I could not see or sense any trace of the unhuman. The others began to pummel the door with the hilts of their swords and the ramming of their shoulders. I knew that the latch would not suffice for very long, so I walked toward the desk in the rear of the room. I glanced about the desk, opening the drawers, feeling the underside until my fingers quite by accident caught on a thin lever that sprung with a snappish click. I discerned a rolling of wooden wheels across a carved wooden track from behind me. I turned to see a panel open to a set of descending stairs to below decks. I did not hesitate and proceeded down while closing the panel as a passed. I held my sword in front of me, making my way through the dim light of the bowels of the ship.
What I found was a pathway that lead to the powder room. However, the ship being in a recent and taxing battle most of the armament was spent. What was left as far as I could tell was a quarter keg barrel’s worth of black powder only. I collected enough of the substance to spread a long streak from a pile at the base of the barrel to the cabin secret doorway I had passed through earlier. I grabbed a pistol from the rack and cocked the hammer back squatting down at the end of black powder trail that I had carefully constructed. Just as I was about to strike the flint to the powder trail with a gentle squeeze of the pistol’s trigger that would spark from the flint strike, I heard a click-BANG! of another pistol fire. Before I knew what happened I felt a hot searing pain erupting from my side as I was literally nailed against the wall by the ball of lead that had tore through me. Still, my resolve intact I slammed the gun into the pile of explosive dust and pulled the trigger. The spark from the hammer was frighteningly severe as it ignited the powder. In turn, the black trail lit up like a giant sparkler that headed methodically and slowly toward the barrel. The shadowy figure that successfully blasted a hole through my gut charged in my direction upon seeing that his shot missed the mark. I staggered to my feet scimitar out and ready. At the last second I decided to back up the stairway that lead to the cabin above. I stumbled through the portal after opening the catch then sealed it behind me. I heard the mysterious assailant plunge into the secret door. With utter surprise I saw that the door to the outside was still intact and that the others had abandoned their forced entry. I thought this peculiar. I dragged myself to the door, unlocked it, and opened it a crack. I peered through and did not see any would-be foes lingering outside. I stepped through as I heard the secret door crunch under the crashing weight of the shooter. There was nothing I could do about him, so I crept around the cabin to the right and pinned myself against the wall to keep from being seen. Abruptly, the enemy broke open the door with the force of a charging elephant. It was the unhuman. He halted in his tracks and slowly cocked his head from left to right, as if listening carefully to the surrounding environment. Without warning, he darted around to the opposing side of the cabin toward the stern. My shirt was soaked through with a huge splotch of blood both in the back and front that depicted that the bullet had gone straight through. I felt the weakness encroach, but I trudged up to follow the unhuman despite. He had disappeared, but I still saw the whole crew of men shouting and pointing as something. There was a tinge of bluish smoke that rose from some unseen place. It was then I realized that this must have been the result of the trail of powder I had inflamed.

As I concentrated on what the men were doing, I discerned the click-BANG again of the flintlock and the mast just to the right of me splinter from the smashing of a lead ball. I snapped my head in the direction of the shot and witnessed the unhuman charging at me again. He revealed a hand double-bladed axe in his opposing hand and poised it to strike. Instead of parrying his blow, I ducked below it swinging my weapon at his legs. Miraculously he jumped his legs out of the way from my whistling blade. As I came up from my crouch and unwound at the waist to aim my elbow into his neck before he could recover from his slightly heavier weapon’s inertia. Off-balance, I swiped my sword from left to right and the tip of my blade sliced open the bastard’s throat. I followed my blow with an immediate kick to the dead-center of his chest which sent him reeling backwards. Before his backside struck the deck, an explosion blasted upwards from the stern sending most of the men either overboard or riddled with shrapnel. I was thrown back off my feet from the shock wave, landing with a crushing thud…

***

I watch with increasing blurring vision as the vortex draws into itself that thing, that wretched being from whatever nether region it came from. Of course I am heading to the same place; a comforting thought. I wonder at this very moment if it will be the puncture from that thing or the churning sea that will take my life from me, or will they both intersect in some kind of karmic symmetry. I see the last of it atop the exploded shard of the ship slide off the jetsam and sink tersely into the depths. The wounded ship is surely next, only behind a few more scattered remnants of itself along with the dead. I am the last one. Somehow I have survived despite the mortal wound. The sound is like nothing I have ever heard; so momentous akin to a waterfall, but then more delicate than that; so full of irony which defines this whole episode, this whole summary of experience that lead to this point, this life.
I think of her, so bright and angelic. Her last words to me prophetic, as they always are every time. She always was the wise one without realizing it. In all her long life she speaks so swiftly, her thoughts moving faster than her mouth can keep up, but little snippets of wisdom surface like life rafts from a sinking vessel. I try to tell her this, even repeat back what is said but she always pushes my examples away as nothing other than a lover’s skewed vision. I resolve to scratch out a message to her knowing that in all likelihood, it will never reach her. However, stranger things have happened here, and other spaces of existence. I lurch back to the cabin with its unhinged door, remove a sheaf of parchment from the shelf and remove a quill. All the ink jars have since been broken and spilled on the floor seeping between the boards to the lower hold. So in the spirit of symbolic improvisation I immerse the tip of the writing instrument into the wound in my side, and commence to scratch this desperate message to her, for good, ill, or indifference.

It does not matter my beautiful, for either way I am dead. I am dead, I am dead. All is postponed once more, whatever that may be. Even now I gaze at the maelstrom. Are we for all eternity doomed to this existence? Are we a set of vaporous souls that are set to wander through these random places, haunting the ambiance with our romantic innuendos and sorrowful farewells? Perhaps we shall continue where we left off. Do you think it possible? I know not love. Will I again survive the journey; will I again supersede the constant distractions during those times of naïve wandering to discover you, so familiar and radiant. You, who I always find in these venues of inequity, but so far in contrast with your surroundings such as a single vein of precious ore within a vast useless mine of the hardest stone. You, who when I again first lay eyes on you send a shock through my system. You, who when I gaze deeply into those very orbs bring forth a swirl of worlds, stars, systems, and universes held within your fathomless depths so frighteningly infinite. I am always utterly lost within your extents. I tell you this again and again, but even though you cannot see it within yourself I am the one that is nothing to you. You feel that you are nothing, but no. It is me that is a wanderer with no place, me who has truly nothing. Only in that moment of recovering you do I begin to count, and then it is even a severest question whether my importance is relevant at each end, at each strand that we follow each time; for I am forever the one that quarrels with such intolerance and impetuousness, while you are always the patient, acquiescing, amiable, and angelic. It is a wonder to me love, that you are the one that each time carries me, instead of the other way around. I am forever lost, as I am here, continuously torn away and scattered out across these distant places, these outer vestiges, the ends of all–

Friday, July 16, 2010

El Sigilo Pequeño

The afternoon was hot, and he could feel the sheen of sweat down his back from the walk over to here. The Sun blazed like a rabid dog, biting ferociously at the ears, nose, arms and cheeks. Tall buildings stretched on either side of him, like giants of old. She told him to meet her somewhere around here like a hotel, wherever that was. She said it was vital that they meet. What, he hadn’t seen her in close to five years, and spoken barely a word in the last two, so why now?
So he walked and walked down the crowded city blocks. He would wipe the perspiration from his brow with the back of his hand from time to time, almost now more out of habit than necessity. He turned right and stepped into the old hotel. The pathway leading up to it was of sloping flagstone construction, the surface worn from what appeared to be close to a hundred years of relentless footfalls. The path was girded by white stone rails following the curve in utter exactness. The amount of care taken in the antique construction novel when one would take the time to observe it.
He climbed the ramp and was met by the greeter who said something like, “Fùnyìhng” with a giant smile on his face.
“Mhgòi,” he responded.
He passed through the glass doors and entered, stopping short. He scrutinized the scene. To his left was a semicircular desk with the check-in attendants scurrying this way and that servicing all the newcomers. Beyond the desk he could make out a large expansive seating area, tables and chairs set low to the ground and spread out widely over the area. He stepped forward to head in that direction. He noticed that the place was crowded with people from all over the world. The occidental, oriental, middle-oriental, and so on.
Again he halted his progress and squinted, examining the populace.
“Of course she would meld into the crowd like this,” he muttered under his breath.
A hostess approached with a smile and said, “Néih hóu.”
“Néih hóu,” he replied, “Deuim̀hjyuh…English?”
“Yes, how can I help you?”
“I’m looking for someone I’m supposed to meet here.”
“Name?”
“Uhm, well I knew her as Fiona, but that’s all I remember.”
“Fiona?”
“Yes.”
“Hmmm. What does she look like?”
“Well, I can tell you what she looked like from some years back. She is about this tall,” he indicated someone who that came up to just below his shoulder, “and has black hair down to her mid back, pretty, dark features…”
“Yes, there are a few here who resemble that description.”
Looking around he could already see that this was the case. He sighed in frustration.
“So, no one left a name?”
“No sir, but there are many, like I said. Perhaps I can take you through the seating area?”
She did. He looked around the entire place but could seem to find her in the crowd of loud speaking, all the languages blending and melding into a cacophony of sonic tide.
“I don’t see her,” he said scratching the back of his neck.
“I am sorry sir, perhaps she hasn’t arrived yet.”
“Maybe. May I wait right here for a bit?”
“Certainly sir. Can I get you anything?”
“No, let me just wait first.”
“Very well,” the hostess said and slowly strolled back to her post.
Suddenly he felt someone jab him in the side. Startled, he jolted in spastic disarray. As he turned, he saw two familiar eyes flash with glee.
“Is that you?” he asked.
“Mmmmhmmm,” she said immediately slipping her arm into his own and leading him to a table in the severe right corner of the room.
He hadn’t noticed this table before, for it seemed so hidden from the public view. He must have passed this location at least twice without detecting it while being escorted around by the hostess. On the table was already evidence of appetizers and drinks consumed. Two sets. The side that he took contained a half consumed glass of something blue and a hard dry half-eaten piece of bruschetta. The side that she took already contained her handbag looped around the chair back.
The scene that suggested that she had met someone beforehand didn’t seem to phase him. He simply took his seat, pushed back and looked at her. She sat down, adjusting her hair so that it all fell behind her left shoulder while a light grin alighted her face.
“I have a little secret for you,” she started.
“Oh yeah?”
“Mmmmhmmm. Yup.”
“And why in fact is it for me?”
“Well that’s a question better left unanswered.”
“There you go again.”
“Hmmm? What?”
“You know-”
“Really, should I?”
“I meant that rhetorically, but ok.”
“So, you’re not acting like you are particularly interested,” she leaded.
“Really? Whatever gave you that impression?”
“Are you being rhetorical now?”
“Not sure if I am or not. So far I plan on playing this whole conversation by ear.”
“Making it up as you go?”
“Exactly.”
“You always do that,” she stated flatly.
“Who says?”
“I do,” her voice said with a tinge of amusement.
“But of course you do. But then what makes you think you’re the authority?”
Just then their drinks arrived. He looked at her with avid puzzlement, his left eyebrow lifted in questioning poise.
“Uh, what’s this? I am not aware that I ordered anything.”
“I took the liberty of ordering our favorites. Or don’t you recall?”
He took the caffe latte with apt apprehension, which was hot and still steaming while she took a frozen margarita in a long curved goblet. He looked at her take the monstrous pale green drink with her long-nailed splayed fingers and barely gave it a sip through the fruit colored straw. He snickered while the waitress took the rest of everything that had remained away.
“What?” she asked.
“Oh nothing…Hey wait!” he gestured at the waitress, “let me have a tequila with a wedge of lime, ok?”
The waitress stared at him blankly and only nodded to only then reply, “¿Cuál clase de la tequila?”
“Reposado, y sin sal también,” he said, taken aback at the language she used but that he had responded.
“¿Con tu café?”
“Sí.”
“That’s a good question she just asked you,” she observed.
“How is it that she is speaking-?”
“She just is, so what?”
“Well, I just wouldn’t call it a common thing.”
“What’s common about anything of this? You, me, this mix of people, this place, this time, the fact we’re meeting here. Common has nothing to do with it. Anyway, why’d you order that?”
“You’re the one drinking a frozen drink,” he said smartly.
“So? So what if I am?”
“Hmmm…” he trailed as his eyes bounced over to the scene outside a rapidly ascending garden consisting of even stone work surrounded by a shallow waterfall flowing gently over smooth river stones. The garden rose from a stone platform, the sunlight illuminating the well-manicured hedges in a strangely coherent chaos that balanced with the overall order of things.
“Yes, so what if you are. Yes,” he continued.
“Yes, what if I am? But let’s return to you. Really love, coffee with tequila? That just seems a bit of a clash.”
“I disagree of course.”
“Are you sure about that?”
“About what?”
“Disagreeing.”
“Disagreeing?”
“Yes! Disagreeing.”
“What do you mean, in general or specifically?”
“I mean both.”
“That sounds a bit ambiguous.”
“Now, there you go again.”
“Yes, I am aware of this, but you still don’t know why I said that same thing to you before?”
She smiled, raising her eyebrow, her long hair splashed into her face like a flickering shadow. He frowned and shifted in his seat as if suddenly uncomfortable. The waitress returned as quickly as she had left to retrieve it and coldly planted the tequila-filled shot glass on the ornately carved maple table with a definitive knock. This caused the amber liquid to shudder with a mysterious mood that matched the ambiance of the evening. The waitress then turned sharply on her heel, her hair whipping around like an opening fan before falling all at once and fading into failing memory. Her shoes clopped away evidenced from the declining frequency of her departure. The woman seated across from him caught him watching the waitress’s exit.
“You like her?”
“Hmmm. What?”
“I asked, so you like her?”
“Who?”
“Who indeed?” she quipped, snapping her head and chin to indicate the appropriate direction.
“The waitress?” he questioned with a puzzled curiosity.
“I think she’s into you. And definitely does not like me.”
He took his first sip of tequila, then immediately followed it with a giant gulp to finish it off. He then bit down on the lime and literally swooned with satisfaction at the combination of flavors.
“Mmmmm,” he sighed.
She only looked at him expectedly, as if inspecting him for that body language that always gave him away at what he was thinking.
He felt her eyes on him and said, “What is it?”
“You know what.”
“And there you go again.”
“No, there you go again.”
“Well, you have me there, but at least I can admit it.”
“Yes, you admit to everything.”
“I do?”
“You do.”
“I wasn’t aware of that characteristic.”
“Yes, I am aware of that.”
“So you are saying that I am oblivious at being aware, but a master of being unaware.”
“Something like that, but I wouldn’t put it like that necessarily.”
“And this is the part when I ask you how would you put it, right?”
“Another question better left unanswered.”
“This whole conversation so far has been sort of like that, don’t you think?”
“Like what? To me it is perfectly clear.”
“I should’ve guessed that. But maybe I did without articulating it.”
“We’ll never know the truth.”
“Yes, well only one of us, the other will know it. And it will be true. So, after all this time, why now?”
“Why not?” she said with curtness.
He shrugged and pressed his lips together and narrowed a curious gaze at her. She matched his inspection look for look, so he averted his eyes back to the table and squirmed a bit in his seat.
Her drink was starting to melt and define itself into layers, that of solids and that of liquids.
“Aren’t you going to have some more of that?” he asked motioning to her sweating drink.
“You’re changing the subject. Don’t do that right now. What we’re talking about is extremely important, even though by the look on your face you don’t know it yet.”
“This whole conversation doesn’t have a defined subject.”
“That’s why dear beauty you most accurately called it a ‘conversation’ and not a ‘discussion’. However, you are wrong. This is a discussion and not at all a conversation.”
He frowned again, this time staring at his empty tequila glass. He reached out and took his coffee, now lukewarm, and sipped it without expression, except smacking his lips as he returned it to the table. He glanced up at her inquiring face and bit the top of his lip with his bottom-front teeth. Shaking his head he leaned back in the low slung gray leather chair and allowed himself a deep breath. The breeze through the trees outside seemed to follow suit. Their leaves rustled and sang their wavering song in sync with his own exhalations. She in turn never faltered in her examination of his every nuance, never her eyes left his own.
He left his right hand on the table by this coffee cup outstretched, his fingers splayed out into an indecisive array by the porcelain handle. She broke this spell by taking hold of his hand, slowly stroking with her brown soft fingers over his own. She lightly caressed the backside of his own and curled her fingertips so that her long nails slightly scratched his skin, pulling him back up into consciousness of the outside world from the otherworld of his hellacious slant toward introspection.
She leaned in close, bringing her lips to his ear. He froze, held his breath in curious anticipation of the unpredictable.
She whispered, “Hey, I have a little secret for you.”

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Ten Minutes

April 1, 0631-0641 Diary Entry

I wasn’t even going to write today, being of unsound mind and somnolent body to the point of perhaps an acute case of social dyslexia (in other words, more normal than usual). However, certain recent events have occurred in these past ten minutes that would never disallow their inscription upon tangible pages or cyber vellum.

***

It started not two stops down from my own. A rather obnoxious rotund woman lumbered up the bus stairs, swiped her pass through the meter and proceeded down the aisle. She lifted her head that had been previously bent down to summarily scan each and every occupant on board the bus. Since her movement educed a glacial passage, it allowed her the luxury of maneuvering her gaze further and further toward the rear of the bus. Quite accidentally, I made eye-contact with her, being a tad inquisitive at what was taking so damned long since the bus driver would not insist on any forward progression until all were seated. This state of circumstance was not only frustrating, but started to border on extreme levels of vexation.

As soon as her eyes met mine though, I knew she had decided then that I was the one she was going to sit next to. I internally groaned and attempted to jut my backpack into the seat adjacent so to act as a deterrent to any and all. I studied her as she continued forth, for now that she had found her “mark” she crooked her head down and extended a longish tongue between her snaggleteeth. She reminded me of a dead pig being prepared to suckle on a large red apple. The rest of her coincided with the said description: she wore a bright pink pant-suit that was stressed so completely by every square-inch pushed out by lumpy cellulite that the seams could be discerned on the verge of all splitting open. I imagined them doing so with every undulating step while yellow globules of fat would trickle out from them with at first a seep, then eventually with a catastrophic gush. I believe I allowed an overt shiver to escape from myself at that point. At this exact moment, she alighted my position. Her ragged breath hissed nasally through her discolored snaggleteeth. She steadied herself in ponderous fashion at the end of the row upon two knee-less stubby legs. Her head cocked upwards yielding two beady and opaque eyes of nondescript hue. Across her face the snaggletooth mouth gradually opened into a gaping maw of immense ill-proportion. I knew I was in for it (but really no idea of the depth), and I felt my body tense and transform into a defensive position before the mind could register the instinct.

“Mmmm!” she rasped with enthusiastic eagerness.

With my outward conveyance of attitude intact at indifference, I shifted my pack onto my lap. Next, I pushed myself against the fuselage of the bus in response to her will. My right cheek ended up being barely a centimeter away from the window so as to allow for a minimal squash of my person. This would not come to pass however, for she slammed her rear down into the thin vinyl cushioned seat with a colossal carom-like smack. With unhesitant swiftness she wiggled her shoulder in such a way that a giant wave crested downwards the length of her porcine trunk until reaching her lumpy globe-shaped hips, where the transferred energy from the spastic shoulder snap terminated. As soon as her right elephantine buttock raised itself to shift closer to my seated self a high-pitched release of vaporous discharge buzzed into the air like an overstressed chainsaw.

“PFFFFFT!”

I barely could get the hated whiff of the blasted gaseous rectal waste into my nose since her left fanny-half arose which finally empowered her whole corpulent anatomy to plummet into me causing interruption. Her final collision elicited a gasp from my involuntarily contracted lungs. I took a quick influx of reactive breath which was none other then the topical salvo of raw sewage fumes.

“Whatcho name pretty boyee?” she drawled.

I flinched into a coughing seizure, thus creating a delay in my response. This must have annoyed her since she pushed her vast weight firmly against me with suffocating and rapt pressure.

“Ja – Jak –J…”

“Huh? What boy?”

“Jake!” I spat unthinking.

“How old are yew?”

“Fifteen.”

“Mmmmm. Yer sure are yummy fer being so young. Uh huh!”

I kept my mouth shut at this remark. I learned long ago that keeping quiet and offering the least amount of information was the best philosophy, although I was failing at it presently.

She continued, “Ya know who ya remind me of thar boy?”

“No. Who?” I asked, being slightly curious.

“Me nephew, God rest’em.”

I turned an appraising eye toward her to observe her unsaid communiqué and recognized a ostentatious sorrow in the form of a quivering lip and a croaking yowl that went on for an extended period while I waited for her to continue.

“He was me only one. Ya know that? He dead now as a fire-encrusted dude ranch. He’s nuth’n but a ghost nephew now.”

“Ghost nephew,” I said; not as a question.

But that is how she took it.

“Yeah, ain’t you heard? I got’em though. I got’em.”

“Got who?”

“Him! Him, you delectable little boy!”

I screwed my face up into a pensive frown. I figured she was a nut-job, the depth at which I was soon to find out.

Without pretense, the piggish woman commenced to rummage through her great big brown “pleather” purse. It was more like fake suede. It was all fuzzy and reminded me of a splat chunk of mud that hung on her hoggish façade.

She pulled this rather large rectangular crystalline object, transparent in manner and that was about the size of an elongated Rubik’s Cube . I saw that there was something inside of it, but she was moving it around so much with her fidgeting that I couldn’t recognize right away what it was.

“What the hell lady! What is that?”

“I told ya. This here is me ghost nephew.”

I could only stare at her in bemused fascination. She at last held the object still for me to see. The only thing I could think of it to be was a polyurethane encapsulated set of human fingers. The fingerprints were still visible and seemed to be magnified by the dense plastic that sealed them off from the air. The whole set of four phalanges possessed a ragged cut across the back ends where they would eventually lead off to the hands. It looked as if they were severed from their owner by a lawnmower blade or even worse, a wood chipper. As I continued to gaze at this abomination, a red blinking light caught my eye. The blip resembled a car alarm-type warning frequency as if from a preprogrammed LED. Upon further inspection I noticed a tiny green and black flat object residing within the plastic where thin tentacles of translucent spaghetti lines emanated into the wounds of the severed human apparatae.

“You mean you’re carrying around your nephew’s right fingers in a block of plastic?” I asked with incredulity.

“Naw! I’ll tell ya a little secret boy. This here is him. What I got here is his little ghost, all nice and cozy. Right here in my hand. Huh? How ‘bout that?”

Right then I detected a restoration of the previous stink when she so rudely had slammed into me after sitting down. It slowly bloomed into an oppressive and noxious cloud, but this time it was tinged with a sickly ketosis that sparked a nefarious nausea. I grabbed my stomach. The pain that radiated from there concurred with that of the petulant pong.

“Ha, ha, ha!” she guffawed, “You see, he’s working on his magic my young scrumptious Jake. This is where it all begins. You’ll see. You just let it happen, now Jake. Let it happen. Don’t resist, or it’ll go bad for you.”

“What the fuck lady! You’re a goddamned lunatic,” I proclaimed while attempting to breathe through my mouth, for my nose felt as if acid were inside of it eating away at all the cartilage.

“No I ain’t Jake. No I ain’t,” she whispered.

The light began to blink at an ever-increasing rate and diffuse from the clear object in angry dissolution. I could’ve sworn I witnessed the ends of the fingers twitch within that grotesque block of anathema. As I was trying to take all of this in for comprehension, the woman again broadened the opening of her snaggletooth chops revealing a grayish pink tongue, much like a grazing cow with blades of grass strewn across it. It limply flung about as if on a set of puppet strings. With a haste of almost supernatural magnitude her left arm shot across her and my own bodies and reached down into my crotch. With a meaty hand she clenched at the whole of my genitals and began to crush them with a surprising grip. I couldn’t speak. I tried to wind my right arm back to strike but she clutched harder and the pain became unbearable. It was all I could think about. My limbs would not react to the ardent will of my brain. Something about this monstrosity of a woman paralyzed me. The expression on her face turned to that psychotic wide-mouthed grin of snaggleteeth from a injurious scowl of concentrated belligerence.

“See? Don’t fight it, and all will go easy for you,” she said.

What followed had brought me out of my state of listlessness, but not right away. With an abrupt shock her gripping hand started to pulsate at my “nuts,” to actually stroke. I could not believe it was happening at first. The previous instilled pain let up, but I found myself still unable to move for the crushing incredulousness of how I ended up in this surreal situation: a big mammoth fat woman dressed in all pink like a hog for display at the country fair fondling my private parts on a city bus. What appalled me more than her act of salacity was that I felt a positive response “down there.” Gradually, I registered the ability of my right hand to sparkle to life as if it had been in hibernation over an eon. The sensation crept up my entire arm. It was a new thing I could concentrate on, something that could distract me from the horrific perversion being done to me. The whole left half of myself was being pressed upon with devastating weight that rendered that side numb and inflexible. With languid incitement, my right side finally regained its motor functions.

I consciously decided to fix my face into inexpressiveness so I might have the chance to hide an opposing intent. Her eyes began to flutter as her right hand that held the severed finger-block brought down to where she was dandling unnaturally. The fingers within that block convulsed while the red light ceased its cyclic throbbing and blared at an angry constant. The lurid threads from the green chip whipped about like the tentacles of a jellyfish. I could tell that the woman was close to a swoon, or something resembling it. I did not want to find out the endgame she had evidently planned for me.

Why me? I could not say.

It was then I recalled that today of April Fool’s Day! But I could not immediately recall why this was important. At last I summoned up the early morning memory as I had prepared for my coming day. I had packed away a “hand buzzer” in the front pocket of my backpack; one of those jokester gadgets to give a “shocking” handshake. This device of deviancy represented my only hope for breaking through this relentless aberration. I had never used it before, so I wasn’t sure of its capacity for effect.

Under the cover of my torso's shadow, I pushed my elbow out with unhurried purpose and deftly unzipped the front pocket. I glanced up at the woman whose eyes were completely closed now. She had finally brought the block down between my legs and rubbed at it in a rhythmic pattern. I knew then I had to accelerate my plan, for she was near the conclusion of whatever it was she was up to. I slipped my index and middle finger into the pocket and probed and found it in a matter of five seconds. I slipped the ring onto my middle finger and extracted my hand from the backpack’s pouch.

The woman produced a laugh so sinister, the hairs on the back of my neck stood up.

“This is it Jake, this is it!” she hissed through her snaggleteeth.

Without conscious thought, I whipped my right hand up from where it laid in an open-handed slap. I let the buzzer’s contact strike hard with a thud into her temple and felt the vibration of the capacitor’s energy release.

It all happened so suddenly. I almost disbelieved the entirety of how easy it seemed when just seconds ago all seemed so hopeless.

Her whole body palpitated into a puzzling rigidity, then slumped over. Her head thumped onto my shoulder as if she were asleep. The block smacked the floor of the bus, the light winking out as it skittered to against the wall and remained there in a corner. I reached up instinctively and rested my fingers on her jugular feeling for a pulse. I felt none.

She was dead, truly dead!

I looked down at the hand buzzer and it had warped and blackened into a twisted piece of metal. I felt something inside me take over. It was in fact me, but this other side, this twin that stepped into these moments of crises. I faded into the background, but I was fully aware of my actions henceforth. All felt as if I were on some sort of autopilot.

I yanked the buzzer off my finger, dropped it on the floor and demolished it under my boot with a quick stomp. I pushed the carcass of the woman enough so I could pull her brown purse’s opening to observe its contents. A large black leather-bound folder had been set there amongst those knickknacks typical of a woman’s handbag: makeup, hair brush, oversized wallet, a scattering of huge tampons, bits and pieces of scribbled paper, wadded up snot rags, prescription bottles, etcetera.

I took hold of the folder and quickly opened it. On the title page was inscribed, “Project: Ghost Nephew.” There was a table of contents that I flashed over before turning the pages until stopping at a certain telling figure. It was a diagram of the block with the severed fingers. It had illustrated just what I had seen: a microchip of which emanated connection wires (the translucent “tentacles”), and the severed fingers all encapsulated within a rectangular cube. Each of the components had been labeled by number. The following page contained a key, but the descriptions of each were in words I didn’t understand. I flipped back to a section called, “Abstract” and began to read. It said:

The following is a description of a device called, ‘Ghost Nephew’. The object is a one-of-a-kind microchip with synthesized neurons that allow the transference of electronic binary signals to be interpreted by any naturally occurring encephalon. Within this manual contains detailed instructions on how to attach the device to a host. This is done by locating an arbitrary orifice on the host and applying pressure against said opening to the phalange-end of the device. Once this is complete, the operative must activate it by means of the encrypted sequence (not included within this booklet) upon the opposing end (microchip). During this activation, the host must be immobilized. After the device has been activated for no longer than ten seconds of elapsed time, the device will connect with the brain. A mass extinction of the host’s memories will take place and a new quantum program will be instantly inserted into the host. The said program is analogous to a computer virus, with the exception of its alacrity at execution of the end purpose. Once the ten seconds of time has elapsed, the operative must vacate the host by no less than ten meters (recommended 0.5 km) and in no less than five minutes to preserve the operative-self. This said booklet contains the specifics of each stage, troubleshooting all probable complications, and consequences for miscarriage of the operation.


I reached up and pulled the stop cable which gave out a “DING!” As the next stop approached, I extended my jacket sleeve to shield my hand from what I was about to do. I reached down and picked up the mysterious block with its obvious malevolent objective and shoved it into my backpack’s front pouch. I pushed the now cadaverous glob of fat over and off of me with careful manipulation. I don’t think any of the other passengers noticed anything that had happened. At least I had hoped not. I climbed over "it", extending my left leg over the engorged thighs to the gangway. I made sure to proceed up to the front doors in a casual manner. I did not want or need any curiosity from any nosey “do-gooder.” Besides, all seemed to be engaged fully into those typifying commuter activities per the usual.

It hadn’t registered at the time that I had murdered someone with an implement of an April Fool’s joke. The audacity of the event was lost on me. So unreal it seemed.

***

As I stand on the side of the road and watch the bus disappear over the hill, I know I have to destroy this thing. How, I do not know. Even if I succeed, I cannot seem to shake this feeling that she had partially succeeded in her mission. And not only that; that the people that sent her to task would be looking for an explanation of what happened, and that perhaps this was only the beginning of my involvement in this bizarre affair.