Monthly Archives: March 2013

The Last Chapter by Lori Safranek

This story requires NO Voting. It was the lone entry in the “fan fiction” category and therefore wins by default. It is still a good story and Lori did a fine job capturing my characters…please read it and give her some love!! ©Lori Safranek 2013 – Used with permission

He was determined to get the last chapter written today, come hell or high water. This book had been lingering far too long and needed a firm boot in the ass to get it done and on its way to publication. He was deep into the fourth paragraph, finally realizing how he could resolve at least one loose thread in the plot, when the doorbell rang.

He groaned in frustration, saved his document and went to get the door. He peeked out the door’s small window but all he saw was the back of a head, a very female head with a pair of shades holding back her short brown hair. You would think a guy who writes stories about crime and bad guys would be more cautious, but he just opened the door.

“Hi, can I help you?” he asked the brunette as she turned toward him. She was probably in her 40s, thin, and wore a black leather vest over a tiny T-shirt that emphasized an awesome set of boobs. Her tight blue jeans and black boots added up to a sexy biker chick. This was a good thing, in his humble opinion. So he gifted her with one of his dazzling smiles.

The biker chick squinted at him and looked him up and down, frowning.

“You’re Tim Baker?” she asked. She didn’t sound like she believed it for one minute.

“Yeah, I’m Tim. Do I know you?”

She shook her head and rolled her eyes. Her eye rolling was expressive and nearly acrobatic. She could have made it to the Olympics of Eye Rolling, that’s how good she was.

“Yeah, you know me,” the biker chick said. “Well, can I come in or do I have to stand out here like a bum?”

Tim opened the door wider and motioned for her to come into the house. He smelled cigarettes as she walked past.

“Have a seat,” he said, gesturing toward the couch. She sat and he took the chair opposite, and they looked at one another. Tim couldn’t place this chick’s face, but he definitely knew her. She was very familiar to him, like they had spent time together.

She reached inside her vest and pulled out a pack of cigarettes and a lighter. Tim opened his mouth to object and she put her hand up.

“Don’t even start with me about the cigarettes,” she said. She carefully lit her cigarette and inhaled deeply. She blew a stream of smoke straight into Tim’s face and he coughed. She smiled.

“Who are you anyway?” he asked. He was not in the mood for nonsense today; he had a book to finish.

She snorted a laugh and shook her head. “Sheesh, I figured you would recognize me by now. You seem a lot smarter in your books.”

“Thanks, I think,” Tim said. “Now who are you?”

She laughed again. “Tim, don’t tell me you don’t recognize Didi.”

Tim frowned and tried to think of any chicks named Didi that he knew. Maybe someone from Houligans? Someone from Facebook? Oh, shit, not a stalker. He’d never hear the end of it from his writing buddy Armand if he had just opened the door and let a stalker in his house.

He couldn’t remember any Didi. Then it hit him like a frying pan upside his head. “Didi? You think you’re Didi?”

He laughed and said, “Listen, lady, I don’t know what this game is, but Didi’s just a character in my books . . .”

“Oh, just a character in your books, eh? Is that right, you dumb ass? What kinda book would you have without characters? You are one ungrateful jerk,” she grated the words out through clenched teeth.

Tim was still confused but he was getting a little angry. “What the hell are you trying to pull, lady?”

Didi leaned forward and jabbed her cigarette at Tim. “I want you to stop putting me in dangerous situations all the god damned time, that’s what I want. And I want Brewski left alone, too. We have other things to do than save Ike’s ass.”

“I put you in dangerous situations?” Tim was half smiling now, wondering if Armand would really go this far to pull a prank on him. Yes, of course he would. Tim stood up. “Okay, Didi, since that’s who you claim to be, it’s time for you to leave.”

Didi leaned back on the couch and crossed her arms over her very nicely built chest.

“No, Mr. Author, I ain’t leaving just yet,” Didi said with a smile. “Not till we get some things straight between us.”

Tim walked to the door and opened it. He motioned with his arm. “Out. Now. Tell Armand the joke didn’t work.”

Didi looked genuinely puzzled, but she didn’t budge. “I don’t know who this asshole Armand is, but I ain’t leaving.”

The screen door opened and in walked two of the biggest, meanest looking men Tim had ever seen. The first one was in his early 50s and reminded Tim of a younger Jack Nicholson. He wore a black leather vest and a bandanna covered his hair. He must be the male half of Didi’s biker love match. The other guy was close to 6’6” tall and muscled, with long, dark hair pulled back in a ponytail. They walked past Tim and into the house.

Didi said, “Try to convince them to leave, Timmy, I double dog dare you.”

The tall guy spoke, “Tim, good to see you.”

The biker had sat down next to Didi on the couch. He went to put his arm around her shoulders but the look she gave him stopped his arm mid-air. He sighed and pulled away from her.

Didi said, “Guys, old Tim here didn’t even recognize me, you believe that shit?”

The two men made sounds that could have been a laugh. Possibly. Or a warning. Tim cleared his throat nervously.

“I don’t really know what’s going on here, but if this is some kind of practical joke . . .”

All three of his visitors laughed.

“Damn, Timmy, you ought to recognize your old buddies Ike and Brewski,” the biker said.

Tim sat down hard on a chair near the couch. He looked at each of the three people invading his living room. Tall guy with a long ponytail. Biker type. Biker chick. Oh, good Lord. It was Ike, Brewski and Didi, sitting in his living room.

He shook his head, trying to clear his thoughts. No way. They were characters in his books, not even based on real people. But man, that tall guy looked just like how he had always pictured Ike. And Brewski, he was the spitting image of the character that lived in the pages of Tim’s books. The girl calling herself Didi was as foul-mouthed and mean as the biker chick he created out of his own head.

“You’re not my characters,” Tim said it firmly. Ike stood with his feet slightly apart, grinning at Tim. Brewski shook his head and his smile flashed from behind his beard. Didi was concentrating on her cigarette. “It’s impossible.”

Ike shrugged. “Maybe it’s impossible, Tim, but we’re here. You’re here. And we have a bone to pick with you.”

Tim couldn’t believe his ears. “You have a bone to pick with me? If I created you, you got nothing to say about it. I make you do whatever I want. That’s part of being a writer. It’s my own little world with my rules.”

Brewski gave a deep, grumbly chuckle. “Well, listen to you, you little typist. Awful big talk from someone sitting here talking to his own characters.”

Tim shot up out of the chair. “Ok, out! All three of you, or I’m calling the cops.”

Even Didi had a nice laugh over that. Ike put one meaty hand out and pushed Tim back into the chair.

“No,” he said. “We aren’t going anywhere, Tim. You see, the four of us have a little problem.”

“A big problem, if you ask me,” Didi piped up. Brewski nodded.

“How can you have a problem? You don’t really exist,” Tim’s voice was rising in volume and pitch. “Are you all three insane?”

Ike patted him gently on the shoulder. “Calm down, Timmy. We’re not insane.”

Tim looked at him, incredulous. He shook his head. “Okay, to hell with it. What’s this problem ‘we’ have?”

“A dead body,” Didi said. She blew more smoke his way. “In my freakin’ house, by the way.”

Tim sighed. “Oh, give me a break. There is no dead body . . .”

He remembered the book he was working on. In chapter twenty-two, he did place a dead body on the living room floor of Didi’s house. The victim was an old biker friend of Brewski’s and Ike was helping them prove Brewski had nothing to do with the murder. The chapter he was working on this morning, the last chapter of the book, would explain everything and Brewski would be fine and the real murderer would be caught.

He laughed and waved his hand at Didi, as if brushing her concerns away. “Oh, that dead body. Don’t worry about that, it all turns out okay in the last chapter.”

He smiled at the trio, but no one was smiling back. “I promise. I’ve just been working on it, and it’ll be fine.”

Ike looked at Brewski, who cocked his head and looked at Didi. Her face held no expression.

“Baker, are you nuts?” she asked. “I’ve had a dead body in my house for four days. Four days, jackass. It stinks. We want to dump it out to sea and just forget about it. But every time we try, you write some crazy shit about a hurricane hitting Flagler Beach. There hasn’t even been a strong breeze since that damned guy died.”

Ike nodded. “She’s right, Tim. You dropped the ball on this one. You left the body lying in her living room, rotting away, and you won’t let us get rid of him. And you aren’t letting me use my connections to find out who did this.”

Brewski swore. “Baker, we want that body gone by the end of the day, and if you don’t do it, we are going to have us two dead bodies. And you aren’t going to be signing no more books or chatting up any more groupies on Facebook, my man.”

“Hey, I don’t have groupies!” Tim said, highly offended. “They’re fans. They like my books.”

Didi snickered. “Groupies, just like Brewski had when he was in that band back in the eighties. I put an end to that whole mess, first time I saw some teenager trying to sneak onto the tour bus.”

Brewski glowered at Didi. “You really think that had to be told? I swear, you can’t keep that trap of yours closed.”

“Bite me,” Didi said, blowing another smoke ring. Brewski growled deep in his chest.

Tim shook his head like a bear trying to escape a swarm of bees.

“Okay, okay, wait,” he said. “Forget about the groupies.”

Didi snorted. “I thought they weren’t groupies.”

Tim glared at her. She blew another smoke ring.

“For now, we have a dead body,” he continued. “I have it under control. I swear to God, I was just writing the ending and it’s all going to work out just fine. Have I ever let you down before, left you hanging?”

Didi scoffed. “Hello? There’s a dead body in my house!”

“I said forget the dead body,” Tim yelled. “Forget the friggin’ dead body!”

Brewski made some getting-up-to-kick-your-ass movements and Tim quickly back-pedaled. “I mean, I just mean, I mean, let’s just deal with this problem right now, okay? I’ll get the guy out of Didi’s house, find the killer and it’ll all be fine.”

Ike spoke up. “Problem is, Tim, you’re moving awfully slow. We have other things to do, you know. Brewski and Didi have been planning to head up to Sturgis for months now and it’s a couple weeks away. And me, I have a job to do. I need to get started on it soon.”

Tim laughed weakly. “Get this shit. I’m inconveniencing my characters. How dare I?”

Brewski sighed and started to get up again. Tim looked him in the eye and said “Dude, try me. I’ll have you dressed in drag again in the next book.”

Brewski froze, seemed to be considering his chances, and slid back on the couch. Tim took a deep breath.

“Okay, I gotta get back to writing, so I can get rid of the dead guy and you all can go to Sturgis and all that crap,” he said. “So, thanks for stopping by, but it’s time to go.”

Ike laughed and shook his head. “Nah, Tim, we’re fine right where we are. We want to make sure you get this thing resolved. And no Facebook, man, we want to see solid writing until things are cleared up.”

“Hey,” Tim said. “I’m not on Facebook that much.”

All three of his guests laughed.

Tim stood up and stalked over to his desk. “Okay, I’m gonna write. Just . . . just be quiet so I can focus.”

It was awkward, trying to write with his characters looking over his shoulder. Didi kept saying, “That’s not how you spell that. You have some shitty spelling skills, Timmy. And put a comma there. What do you have against commas, anyway? ”

Brewski had liberated a couple cold beers from the fridge. He and Ike were sitting on the couch now, drinking Tim’s beer. Occasionally, Ike would ask, “Tim, did you remember about the blood?” and Tim would say, through clenched teeth, “I’m getting there.”

Two hours passed and finally Tim typed those magical words: The End. The body had been dumped in the ocean, all the blood had been cleaned up off of Didi’s carpet and Brewski had been cleared. He pushed back from the desk and let the trio read what he had written.

“Yeah,” Ike said. “That’s a good plan. We can do that, no problem.”

Didi made a little humming noise that sounded a lot like “I don’t know” and pointed to a sentence. “You really think I could get all that blood up with just a carpet steamer? And remember he had four days to leak body fluids.”

Tim closed his eyes and took a deep breath, drawing on all his resources to find enough patience to deal with these maniacs he’d created.

“The blood will come up, and so will the body fluids, Didi,” he said. “I googled it.”

Didi shook her head. “He googled it. Sheesh.”

Ike turned to Tim and stuck out his hand. Tim shook the big man’s massive paw. “Good going, Baker. You did us proud.”

Tim, still feeling a bit lost, said “Well, gee thanks, Ike, I’m glad you like it.”

Then he realized what he had just done – thanked his own character for approving of his writing. A vein began pounding in his temple. Brewski gave him a hearty slap on the back, nearly knocking Tim off his feet.

“Good job, typist,” he said. “Next time, wrap it up a little sooner. We ain’t as young as we used to be. The stress ain’t good for us.”

He and Didi walked out the front door. Ike waved and said, “Thanks again, Tim,” and followed them.

Tim was left alone with a finished manuscript and the beginning of a rotten headache. He saved the document carefully then grabbed his car keys and went out the front door.

It had been one hell of a day. His own characters had shown up at his house, telling him what to write. It was too much. Then again, the book was done. That was always top priority.  Now, he needed a drink. Ike and Brewski had drunk all his beer. Why hadn’t he written them as recovering alcoholics? He chuckled then stopped dead in his tracks. An evil grin spread over his face. Oh, yeah, he thought, smiling broadly, Ike and Brewski were going to learn to live one day at a time in the next book. I’m a frickin’ genius, Tim thought, as he started the car and drove away.

13 Comments

Filed under Short Story Contest

Personal Hell by RJ Kennett

You may vote by “liking” my facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/BlindoggBooks and putting a “like” under the link to this story OR by placing a comment below. Please vote only once, duplicate votes will not be counted. Thank you! ©RJ Kennett 2013 – Used with permission

God help us, here we go again.

Sitting in a trench, caked in mud. How many times have we been here? This damn war just won’t end. I watch as a worm makes its way across the toe of my worn out boot. My stomach grumbles. I wonder what that worm would taste like, but dismiss the notion of just slurping it up out of the mud. I still have standards.

We haven’t eaten in days, but that’s probably for the best. The stink of death wafting over the battlefield is enough to take a man’s appetite anyway. It clogs a man’s nostrils as if it were a thing alive, looking to strangle him. Days of charges and countercharges have left dead and wounded from both sides strewn over the field.

Rufus is coughing and sniffling again. I want to strangle him just to shut him up, but I guess it’s not really his fault. Besides, it makes him a mark for the Yanks instead of me.

The Lieutenant is rousting us again. The arrogant prick. He knows we’ve lost what… half our men? Two thirds? I’ve lost count, and still he’s going to attack. Trying to make a name for himself. He’ll make worm food of us all.

I check back with my squirmy little friend. The critter may just get the last laugh.

The Lieutenant answers to higher ups, just like I answer to him. He probably hates them, too. But I’ve never seen them, so the Lieutenant is the focus of my hate. I hope it travels up the chain of command to the source, to whatever imbecile decided we should attack while undermanned.

Poking my nose up, I look over the battlefield. It’s morning, so the fog hasn’t lifted yet. And it’s thick, like a wall of dirty cotton. I can’t even make out the tree line on the other side of the field, but I know it’s there. How many Yanks are hiding there, I wonder?

It isn’t that I’m scared of dying. Been dying for pretty much my whole God forsaken existence. Dying’s easy. I just don’t want to die empty. Empty stomach, empty heart, empty soul. I’d like my death to mean something, and there’s no meaning in this. Not in this war, not in this trench, and sure as hell not in this idiotic charge.

Rufus is standing on my left as we load our weapons, fix our bayonets and steel ourselves for the charge. He lets off a whopper of a sneeze. I take a step to the right. He’s marked himself for sure now. At least the Yanks will kill him before me.

Well, that’s it then. The bugler is sounding the charge. Stupid to announce it to the Yanks. In this thick fog we could belly crawl right up to them and they’d be none the wiser until it was all over. Now we’ll be running into a volley of lead with fog as our protection.

We head out into the field of misery. Rufus is yelling his stupid head off, trying to scare the Yanks, as if his sneezing weren’t enough. I stay quiet.

I can see a line of flashes through the fog, and Rufus’ head explodes. I knew it would. Then I hear the crackle of the volley that took him. How weird is that? Actually, I think he’s a lucky bastard. He died quick and never saw it coming. I can just make out a couple other boys charging alongside me, whooping and hollering like the Devil’s own. Through the fog, I can make out the tree line now, and join in the battle cry. The Yanks won’t have time to reload before we get there.

I see a lad trying, though. I stop running long enough to draw a good bead on him, and drop him like a sack of potatoes.

I hurdle a low fence, stepping on the twitching corpse of the soldier I just killed. That’s for Rufus, you bastard.

Then I see the kid. Can’t be more than fifteen. Won’t live to see sixteen. The terror in his eyes as I roar up on him almost makes me feel pity. I ram my bayonet into his gut, then rip it out, taking a bunch of his guts with it. The kid’s going to die screaming. I’d bash his head in to save him the pain, but I’ve already located my next target.

He’s a big, stocky fellow with a bushy beard, gripping his rifle by the barrel and swinging it like a club, yelling like a man possessed. I don’t think he sees me, and try to slip inside his guard to bayonet him. Big mistake. I see sparks as the stock of his rifle connects with my temple. I crash into him, though, and we tussle.

He rolls on top of me and pulls a knife. I try to fend him off, but damn he’s strong. I feel the blade slip in between my ribs and pop a lung, and maybe some other stuff. He rips it out harshly, laughing like a maniac and moves on.

Bastard. Finish the job for once.

The pain is unbelievable. I look at my bloodied hands and feel the intense, burning agony in my chest. My vision dims, and the cacophony of battle dwindles to a dull roar. A warmth washes over me and the pain eases. It’s not so bad; dying. Darkness envelops me.

Am I dead? I can’t feel my body. I’m drifting in nothingness. Then I see it; a pinpoint of light, somewhere in the black mists that surround me. It grows bigger, coming nearer. I remember the faces of those I’ve killed. That poor kid I disemboweled and left to die alone and in pain. The light gets closer. I’ve done nothing with my life. Nothing good, anyway. It’s been a waste. Sorry, Momma. I wish I could’ve made you proud. The light gets bigger still. Is this God? The light zooms in at me, encompassing me, burning me! I SCREAM AS ALL IS LIGHT-

God help us, here we go again.

Sitting in a trench, caked in mud. How many times have we been here? This damn war just won’t end. I watch as a worm makes its way across the toe of my worn out boot…

47 Comments

Filed under Short Story Contest

The First and Last by Dianne Gallagher

You may vote by “liking” my facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/BlindoggBooks and putting a “like” under the link to this story OR by placing a comment below. Please vote only once, duplicate votes will not be counted. Thank you! ©Dianne Gallagher 2013 – Used with permission

Run.

Stop.

Turn.

Run.

Run.

Stop.

Run.

Run.

That was his life. How it always was. How it always would be. Never stop. Never rest. Just run. If he didn’t run, bad things happened. If he didn’t run, his job was left undone and his purpose… well, if he didn’t run, he had no purpose. And without purpose, there was no reason for him. It was that simple.

Eyes were always on him. Always watching to make sure he did his job. Finish what he started. How the hell did he get here? What the fuck did he do to deserve this? Nothing. He had done nothing… but do what he was told. Without question. Maybe it was his fault. Maybe he should have said, “Enough. I’m done. This job you have, this money that’s so important… I want nothing to do with it. No one owns me. I own myself.”

Run.

Run.

Stop.

Turn.

Run.

Run.

Every moment, every day, every year of his life, he did his job without complaint and waiting. Waited for things to end. For rest. For reward. Sometimes it was there, waiting for him at the end of the job. Most of time there was nothing but a meal and a place to sleep. He thought about quitting. Just start running and not stop. He heard about someone who had. Just woke up one day and just decided enough was enough. Started running and came back.  He heard she made it to the next town before they found her and dragged her back. Put her back on the job… but she wasn’t the same.

Neither was he.

It started as a stiffness in his joints, then a cough that started and wouldn’t stop.  One of the bossees took him to the doctor and he could tell right away by the look on everyone’s faces that the diagnosis wasn’t good.

But still he did his job.

Run.

Run.

Cough.

Run.

Cough.

Fall.

And now he stood or tried to stand. He was shaky. Even after years of running, the legs that carried him every moment of every day of every year failed him. As everyone, in the end, failed him.

Another trip to the doctor and the verdict was delivered. Tears would’ve been nice, but he knew better. Tears were too valuable for someone like him. Someone who just did his job. Without question. Every moment of every day of every year.

Until he couldn’t.

In those last moments, any thought might have filled his mind. The feeling of the sun on his back. The total exhilaration of flying across the ground, going faster than anyone or anything around him. Falling in love and having a family… like others had families. But in the end, he thought of one thing. Actually, one person. His first. First hands that touched him. First eyes that loved him. First voice that told him what to do and how to do it.  And told him he was worth something.

“I’m sorry,” the voice said.

He was lying on a table now. Only one other person was in the room with him. The lights were very bright and the smells were all wrong. Disinfectant and alcohol and something… something dangerous. He wanted to get up and run one last time, but his body wouldn’t move. Couldn’t move.

A hand on his face. Gentle. Eyes looking into his. Loving. A voice. Strange, but caring.

“It’ll be over soon,” the voice said.

He tried to focus, but his eyes wouldn’t. Couldn’t. And for a moment, he thought of that first day on the job. And his first. Smiling and laughing and telling him how well he was doing. He was so young and so stupid. The corners of his mouth turned up to something like a smile.

And then he thought he smelled something familiar. Someone he loved. Someone who once loved him. And his heart almost skipped. He wanted it to skip. Wanted to jump up. But he couldn’t.

It was sheer dumb luck that she was there on this day. One his last day. His first on his last. She was there to pick up some antibiotic ointment. And she saw him. Knew him immediately.

“What happens after?” she asked.

“They didn’t want him back,” the doctor said quietly. “We’ll take care of it.”

The woman opened her bag, took out a small wad of bills and pressed it into the doctor’s hands. “I want it done right. I never… ”

Hand. Gentle. Eyes. Love. Voice. Hers.

“You did good,” the voice said. An old voice. The first voice. His first voice.  “Good boy. You are such a good boy. And I love you.”

There was something sharp in his leg. He felt something fall on his nose, on his eyes.

“Best herding dog ever came out of my place. I never should’ve let him go.”

It was the last thing he heard… and it was enough.

3 Comments

Filed under Short Story Contest

Death Gets a Life by Frank J. Edler

You may vote by “liking” my facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/BlindoggBooks and putting a “like” under the link to this story OR by placing a comment below. Please vote only once, duplicate votes will not be counted. Thank you! ©Frank Edler 2013 – Used with permission

The doorbell rang.  Death answered it.  A mop-haired blonde guy looking every bit the part of the cliche surfer stood at Death’s door.  Death sighed wistfully, he didn’t want to deal with anyone..

The surfer dude looked at his feet and said, “Hey man, I’m like your neighbor and stuff.  Anyways, I was wondering if you might be able to help me out with this little problem I’m having…” He hesitated as he looked up from his feet to meet Death’s suspicious stare.

Though Death’s head was a skull, his brow ridge raised in surprise as his mouth fell agape as if the bone were formed of rubber.  “Whoa!  I’m not like that I’m afraid you’ve got me all wrong.”

“What?”  The surfer guy was momentarily confused but quickly smiled in understanding.  “Oh not like that Bro.  You see I know who you are.  You keep strange hours, real recluse type, that musty smell.”

Death’s brow ridge scrunched and his lips pursed.  “You mean the black tattered robes, scythe and skeletal features didn’t clue you in?” he asked incredulously.

“Oh man, you didn’t meet the old lady who lived here before you moved in.  I mean, Florida, right?  Land of the old and crusty.”  The surfer guy said with a straight face.

Death was beginning to grow inpatient, “Look, what’s this about?”

“Well like I said this is Florida.  Lots of customers for you here.  You were very busy when you first got here.  I’ve been noticing you haven’t been getting out lately.  Like at all.  Anyway, when you ain’t out there doing your thing, ya know, things start to back up quick around here.  The beach man, they are all over the beach.  It’s getting so you can’t surf anymore.”

It was Death’s turn to look at his feet.  He let loose another depressing sigh.  In that moment the facade crumbled and Death appeared to be only a pathetic shell of a man or a skeleton at least.

The truth was Death was depressed.  Though Florida should have been a boon to his business the long list of people on his harvest list was overwhelming.  The senior population seemed an insurmountable task.  Collecting the souls who were about to expire took every last second of his time.  There was no play only work.  That weighed on the soul of soulless.

Death’s bashful silence spoke volumes.  The surfer guy quickly realized his neighbor was off.  The long arduous hours working one of the busiest districts a Death could be assigned finally took its toll.

Death had become woefully depressed.  He was now a shut-in.  Death needed to get out, get away from the job.  Death needed to get a life before the old decrepit bodies piled up upon one another on the beach.

So the surfer dude did what he needed to do right then and there on Death’s doorstep.  He introduced himself as Johnny and told Death they were going out for the day.

Johnny brought Death out to the local mall first.  Death’s wardrobe was atrocious.  All black flowing robes and all tattered and musty.  Even his undergarments were worn and crusty.  Johnny figured Death had a severe case of swamp ass by the state of his underpants.

They made a beeline for the mens clothing store.  The gentleman who assisted Death with his new wardrobe wasn’t Italian but still put on a cheesy accent and played the part.  Death walked out of the store a new man. He did clean up remarkably well in Johnny’s opinion.  His opinion was backed up when two young blondes almost broke their necks doing a double take as Death walked by.

It was clear to Johnny that it was time to go meet some ladies.  Death was naively unaware of all the ladies gawking at him as they left the mall.  Johnny hoped the blissfully unaware hunk routine would work for Death.

There were some jumping clubs even in the afternoons in this part of Florida.   Johnny figured they were going to need a lot of time to get Death loosened up.  They entered the club and Johnny immediately saw a young brunette near the end of the bar.  She had immediately perked up from a slouch when she caught sight of Death.  Johnny didn’t think it could be this easy.

They sat next to the young lady who couldn’t help but give Death her best pair of bedroom eyes.  Johnny excused himself and whispered in Death’s ear to buy her a drink as he walked away.  Death ordered two drinks and started in with the small talk albeit uneasily.

“Do you come here often?” he asked.

The brunette rolled her eyes.  “You don’t need to make small talk with me handsome.  I like your look, very goth.  I like that.  What do you do for a living?”

“I assist the living with crossing over to death.”

“Oh, a mortician!  Goth, very goth.  Did I mention I like that?”  She gave a devilish scan of the room then looked Death in the eye socket.  “Ya wanna get out of here?”

Death’s hand bones began to sweat.  “Umm, I’m not sure where my friend went and I think if I left he may get ner–”

“Don’t worry about him.  I think he may be a bit preoccupied himself.”  She nodded into a dark corner and sure enough Johnny was talking up a platinum blonde who looked every bit the surfer part that Johnny did. “Come on, let’s go get some fresh air.  My car is a convertible.  Oh I’m Felicia by the way.”

“Death.”  He introduced and held out a hand to shake hers.  She giggled and grabbed him around the waist and led him out of the club.

Johnny figured he gave Death enough time for small talk.  He took the cute blonde he hooked up with, Mindy he thought she said, to go meet Death.  He was happy she seemed like the type of girl who was up for anything.

Death was nowhere to be found, nor was the brunette.  They weren’t seated at the bar nor were they out on the dance floor. All the dark corners were unoccupied.

Johnny’s breath caught in his throat for a moment.  Then he thought to himself, ‘ There’s no way.’  He grabbed Mandy -or was it Mindy – by the wrist and scampered outside.

Johnny scanned the parking lot for Death.  A cherry red sports car with the top down caught his attention and the well dressed skeleton making out with the foxy brunette in the car caught his attention even more.

Death you devil  Johnny thought as he smirked at the sight of the two of them.  Johnny told Miranda (wait, Mandy?) to wait where she was.  He approached Death and his new squeeze who were pawing at each other like two wound up puppy dogs.

“Ahem.”

The lovers let loose their passionate lip lock.  Death looked over his shoulder at Johnny.  He looked like a kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar.  The brunette flashed Johnny a catty grin.

“Oh, hey Johnny.  I’m sorry but Felicia here… Oh this is Felicia” he introduced her  in a panic. “She just wanted to get some fresh air and she has this really nice car and we were just checking in out and–”

“Yeah I can see you were checking it out.  Not feeling so shy anymore are we?”  Johnny teased.

Death and Felicia could do nothing but blush.  They had been caught red handed and they were acting like two kids getting caught playing seven minutes in heaven.  Johnny suggested since everyone was getting along famously and the night was still young that they take in some evening surfing while there were still some vestiges of light burning from the deep summer sun.  Death and the ladies were all in and suddenly they were out on a double date.  A better night could not have been planned.

They got to the beach and Death could see right away what Johnny had arrived at his door that morning to complain about.  There were old people carpeting the beach from end to end as far as the eye could see.  Yet the ocean itself was void of any senior bathers.  As far as Death could see there wasn’t a soul in the ocean.

Death, Felicia, Johnny and Amanda (maybe she said Murgatroyd, it was loud in that club) found a vein of space to make their way to the water through the swarm of old people laid prone on the sand.  They were knocking sweet old ladies and ornery old men in the head, shoulders and legs with their surf boards as they navigated the sea of geriatric patients.

They finally made it to the surf and paddled out.  The waves weren’t large but they were steady.  The two couples were having the time of their lives surfing and getting to know one another a little better.  Both Felicia and Rebecca (no wait, Mindy, right?) had surfed before but were a bit clumsy at it.  Death had never surfed but under Johnny’s instruction he began to get the hang of it.

After a half hour or so of surfing they were all smiles.  They floated out in the ocean waiting for another set of waves to come in but the twilight was quickly giving way to the dark and the sea was settling down.  The four gazed back at the beach each lost in their own thoughts for a moment.

Death’s smile went flat as he gazed at that beach.  “Seeing them from here, I had no idea how important my job really is.  Taking those souls day in and day out and leading them on to the other side makes you lose perspective.  I was thinking only of me and not seeing the big picture like I can see it now.”  He scanned the mobbed beach from end to end to punctuate his thought.

Johnny reached over and patted Death on the back.  “It’s okay man.  Everyone’s job sucks but we gotta do it right?  It’s easy to lose focus when you’re a slave to the grind day in and day out.  You just have to remember to take time out for yourself when you start sinking in the work.  If your heart isn’t in the work you’re just not doing the job even though you’re there.  You gotta get a life Death, that’s part of the job too brother.”

Death’s lip bones scrunched together.  A look of renewed determination flashed across his face.  “Johnny you’re right!” he proclaimed.  “Tomorrow I get back to the job.  Thanks to you I feel like a new skeleton.”  He thrust his breast bone out.  “Death is part of life and life is now part of Death!”

He exclaimed to all those piled on to the beach, “I’m coming for you all tomorrow!”  The droning of thousands of senior citizens complaining about children, television programs and the way things are nowadays suddenly stopped.  “But tonight I’m taking my lady friend home with me to show her what it’s like to play with Death!”  He turned and winked at her as she returned a wicked smile back at him.  The old people on the beach broke into thunderous applause.

Mindy (he was positive it was Mindy) had hopped on to Johnny’s board and they were clearly not looking to find a bedroom.  Death laughed and motioned for Felicia to paddle back to shore with him.  When they got back to shore the old folks were suddenly making a wide path for Death and his lady.

Death was not seen the rest of the night but a wail could be heard for miles emanating from his house.  Some say it was the cry of the Banshee alerting all those to their impending deaths.  Some say it was Felicia being brought to climax like no woman has before or since.

+ + +

            Johnny woke up with the sun blaring in his eyes and his face plastered to the sand.  Beside him Mindy lie naked sleeping  with a towel draped over her.  The sun was harsh and he couldn’t open his eyes right away.  He noticed a silence he had not heard in quite some time however.  Only the sound of the water lapping at the beach and the sound of gulls calling in the distance.

He could feel space around him.  He shaded hands over his eyes and opened them.  He saw nothing but sand.  Not a single soul was on the beach except for him and Mindy.  He laughed out loud as loud as he could.  The laughter woke up Mindy.

“What’s going on?” she asked as she sat up and used the towel to cover all the parts that mattered.  “Whoa, everyone is gone.  Finally.”

“Death is feeling himself again.  In a big way.  I can’t believe he took care of them all so fast.  How in heaven did he do it?”

A ship’s air horn blew.  They looked out on the water.  A large cruise ship was sailing out toward the horizon.  The ship was black as black could be.  They could see all the decks were crowded with people.  Standing at the bow as clear as could be was a tall, dark figure with long robes flowing about him.  Death sailed off into the horizon with his lady friend on his arm.  His smile was so bright Johnny could see the gleam from the shore.

78 Comments

Filed under Short Story Contest

Unraveling by Becky Pourchot

You may vote by “liking” my facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/BlindoggBooks and putting a “like” under the link to this story OR by placing a comment below. Please vote only once, duplicate votes will not be counted. Thank you! ©Becky Pourchot 2013 – Used with permission

Margo had just finish a masterpiece—at least that’s what she called it.  In thick, wooly browns and yellows Margo had knit herself a sweater with stitches so tight, so perfect, not even the coldest Arctic wind could penetrate it.  As she tied the final knot, her cats Roquefort and Marley wandered along the ledge of the couch to get a closer look. She held her boxy accomplishment up to show them.

“What do you think guys?” she said to her sweet felines.

Both of them blinked.  They weren’t interested in the sweater. She sighed, folded her work up neatly and laid it on the couch.  There was a routine to follow.

In the bathroom Margo approached the twelve amber bottles lined up in military fashion on her counter.  Reaching for the one labeled doxorubicin hydrochloride, she awkwardly twisted the child safe lid open, aware of the irony that there never would be any children to protect from these poisons.  Margo dropped two pills into her hand and her stomach lurched—a Pavlovian response, she figured.

She took the pills and slapped her hand against her mouth, catapulting them down her throat. Apparently her swift move wasn’t quick enough this time and she tasted a sharp bitterness on her tongue.  She winced, but still swallowed them without water, letting herself feel as the two hard lumps slowly creeped down her throat.

Modor, her calico cat rubbed against Margo’s feet asking to be picked up. In her arms he did as always, rubbing his jaw against hers, stretching his soft jowl into a kitten smile and purring loudly.

As Modor and Margo enjoyed their moment, Smeigel the Siamese came into the bathroom, dragging Margo’s favorite roll of wool with the playfulness of a kid on a playground.

“Smeigel you naughty, naughty boy you”  She put down Modor and rolled up the wool.

Margo stood up and caught herself in the mirror.  She barely recognized herself.  She’d probably lost forty pounds, but nothing about the weight loss made her want to call Jenny Craig for a photo shoot.  In fact without the added fat, she felt exposed, vulnerable.

She took one hand and smoothed her bangs across her forehead.  She was one of the lucky ones and still had her hair—though it didn’t matter much.  She was never one for caring much about looks, which is why she always kept her hair so short.  When people she met assumed she was a lesbian, she’d answer, “No, I just prefer cats.”  To her satisfaction, that usually scared them off.

She opened the shower door and turned on the faucet, letting the shower room steam up nice and hot.  She slipped off her sweats and stepped in.

Margo grabbed the bar of soap and lathered up her legs.  Lifting a razor she began dragging it upwards from her ankle to her knee. She paused, stared at the blond stubble, and wondered what her legs would look like if she stopped shaving all together.

What would it matter anyway? She thought.  No one would even know.

Interrupting her thoughts, she heard a thump, like something falling in the other room.

“Kitties?” she called.

Though she couldn’t see the bathroom door from the shower stall, she could hear it creak open, then an unfamiliar man’s voice spoke.

“Hey!  Sorry to bother you, but could you tell me where I am?

Margo screamed.

“Oh, no no no. “ he said apologetic. “I’m not here to scare you…”

The shower door opened by itself and Margo tried to cover her chest and thighs.  She stood frozen, exposed.

Apparently there was no one there, but the disembodied voice spoke again, “Hey.  Wow. You’re not dead.”

“Uh.  No…” Margo answered scared and confused.

“I’m sorry.  Looks like I’m not even on the right spiritual plan.” The voice laughed.  “Go figure.  Must have made a wrong turn at Albuquerque.”  The voice chuckled like he had just told the best joke ever.

Margo slowly, cautiously grabbed for the door and shut herself in.

“Sorry about interrupting your shower,” the voice said muffled behind the glass now. “Any chance you know how to get to the 16th dimension?”

Margo called back wearily, “I don’t know who you are… or why you are in my bathroom. But you need to leave.”

“Yeah, I would like to do that. But I don’t honestly know the way out of here,”  The man paused.  She heard the floor boards creak and he called from the other room, “What are you, some sort grandma or something?  Never seen so much yarn in my life.”

“I’m NOT a grandma.  I’m forty-five.  I knit.”  Margo said trying to entertain the man while she devised a plan to call for help.

“You knit?  That’s cool.  Mittens and booties and such?”

“No.  I make infinity scarves.  I sell them on Esty,”  she said with a proud sniff.  She reached for the faucet and turned off the shower.

“Oh!  Infinity…” The ghost said thoughtfully.  “Now that’s a concept I have yet to grasp.  I thought when I died I’d learn all the answers…”

The shower door opened by itself again, letting the cool air in. A towel, appearing to float in the stall hovered in front of her.  The door then shut allowing the steam to once again build up.

Margo rubbed her eyes firmly with her palms as if this would somehow wake her up from her bizarre hallucination, but when she removed her hands the towel still hung in mid air.

“This is just a side effect of the chemo,” she said to herself out loud.

The steam now seemed to cluster around the point where the towel magically hung and a forty-ish looking man appeared, translucent in the little shower stall.  He looked her up and down before handing her the towel.

She grabbed it and covered her body.

“What are you?” she asked.

“I’m Rob…Robert…Robby.  Whatever you want. I’m a wandering ghost. Been dead for I don’t know how long.”

“Well, whoever…er…whatever you are, I’d like you to leave.”

“I’m afraid that ain’t gonna happen, lady. As far as I can tell I slipped through a one way portal. We’ll have to wait for another one to open up. ”

Margo looked at the door, which Rob had inadvertently blocked with his ghost body. Rob saw her glance at it and politely stepped out of the way.

Out of the shower, she grabbed her clothes and headed for the bedroom, with the four cats trailing behind.  She shut the door and thinking she was free of the ghost, slipped on her clothes.

The voice began again, this time behind her.

“So, you some kind of crazy cat lady or something?” Rob asked.

“I’m not crazy…at least not up until today. I just like my cats,” she said bending down and petting them in defense.

“I’m a dog person. Or was.  Cats?  I dunno they kind of creep me out. They slink around all silently. You never know where they’ll show up.”

“Yeah. I know how that can be,” Margo said staring her hallucination down with a slight smirk.

“Sorry about that.  I’m not used to hanging out with living people these days.”

“So…you normally hang out with dead people?” Margo said deciding now to indulge her delusion.

“Yeah.  Ghosts and spirits and what not.”  Rob looked around her bedroom and took note of the framed photographs of cats dressed in doll clothes.

“Please tell me you don’t spend your days home here knitting cat clothes,” he said.

“I don’t knit cat clothes…not often anyway. But I do make sweaters. Human sweaters.” Margo said. She walked into her living room and picked up her crowning acheivment.

“This is my masterpiece,” she said looking at a faint, ghostly image of a man that hovered in the corner.

“See the intricate stitch work?  The lattice design?” she added.

“No offense or anything,” Rob said playfully, “but it looks like my uncle barfed kielbasa all over it.”

Margo pulled the sweater out in front of her and looked at it closely, then started to laugh.

“Kielbasa, huh?”

“You know I mean it in the nicest way.”  Rob chuckled.

Margo laughed with him. Really, there was nothing much left to do in her life but laugh.

“I guess it doesn’t make sense to be making a sweater, living here in Florida, does it?”  she said as her laughter turned into an uncomfortable coughing fit.

“You’re not well, are you?” Rob asked seriously.

“No.  Not really,” Margo answered, though for some reason she kept smiling. “Stage 4 cancer, they say.”

“That sucks. You got kids?  Family?”

“All I have is my ninety-three-year-old mom.  She’s in a home with Alzheimer’s.  I’ve got an ex-husband. He was a real winner…allergic to cats. Go figure. No kids. Just my cats. That’s all.”

“So what’s your prognosis?” Rob asked.

“The doctor gives me four months or so. The meds may help a little…you know, add a few months, but honestly it feels like they’re destroying me.”

“What are your plans after you die?” Rob asked seriously.

“The kitties will go to my friend Beth. The rest of it all gets donated.”

“No,” the ghost corrected her. “I don’t mean your plans here…I mean your plans after you die.”

“Is that a choice?” she asked with a curious smile.

“Yeah.  I mean, do you want to hang around here as a ghost, do the heaven thing, get reincarnated, travel transdimensionally, etcetera, etcetera…?”

“Ooh!  I don’t know,” Margo said. For the first time she was feeling a little excited about her impending death. “Travel sounds good?  Is there a Travelocity site for the recently departed?”

Roy laughed.  “You know, you’re not the freaky cat lady I first took you for.”  He smiled at her.

She paused and looked at him with growing warmth.  The ghost was overweight and seriously balding. He was no Tom Cruise, for sure, but there was something charming about him.

“You know whatever they tell you—four months, ten months, whatever—you go when you’re ready,” Rob said.

“How will I know?” she asked, surprised at the calm tone in her voice.

“You’ll know when you can let it fall behind you…when you let yourself become unbound.”

Margo smiled and nodded. The thought of relinquishing control suddenly felt very good.

“You know, you’re right about this sweater.  It’s awful,” she said.  “Why am I making sweaters anyway?  I live in Florida for Christ’s sake!”

She looked at the ghost with a knowing smile, picked up her sweater, and began searching for the little final knot that had marked the sweater’s end.  Slowly, carefully with her finger nails she pulled the knot free and began to pull and pull, releasing the tight, elaborate knitting she had spent a life time learning to master.  The yarn unraveled itself into a pile on the floor and she watched as Smeigel played in it with a passion.

Margo pulled at the last and final binding and dropped the wool to the floor, completely satisfied.  Her hands were empty.

A commotion came from the bathroom and she found Modor and Marley knocking all of her medications on to the floor.  A little bit perturbed, she bent down and picked a bottle up.  But just as she began to place it on the counter, she paused.  Rather than returning it to its designated spot, she turned to the trash can and tossed it in. One by one she collected the bottles and threw them all away.

Stepping to the trash, she gazed at the twelve bottles laying in no particular order, one on top of the other in the midst of discarded Q-Tips and cotton balls…and in that moment she felt it.  The release.  The unbinding.

Excited, she ran into the living room and called out, “Hey Rob, I did it! I’m ready!”

But when she made it to the room, Rob was gone.

Leave a comment

Filed under Short Story Contest

The Passage by SB Knight

You may vote by “liking” my facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/BlindoggBooks and putting a “like” under the link to this story OR by placing a comment below. Please vote only once, duplicate votes will not be counted. Thank you! ©SB Knight 2013 – Used with permission

Branches pulled and snatched at clothes and skin, twigs snapped and leaves crushed to particles as frantic feet propelled Eric farther down the old game trail. Just ahead, in the growing shadows of darkness a silhouette was the only sign of hope and escape.

“Troy hold up, wait a minute man.”

His legs burned as he ran harder in a desperate attempt to catch up. Rounding the bend in the trail he spotted Troy bent over, hands on his knees. Eric stopped beside his friend.

“Bout damn time. My freaking lungs are bout to explode and you keep on running.”

“I’m waiting now ain’t I? So stop your bitching.”

Eric looked over his shoulder. The silence intensified as the sun sank farther below the horizon, casting long black shadows that threatened to overwhelm him.

“You think it’s him? I thought we finished the last time around,” he whispered.

“I’m not sure, maybe we didn’t but I ain’t waiting around to find out and I sure as hell don’t want it to pick up our scent again.”

A howl tore through the night, shattering the silence and running chills over Eric’s body. His stomach twisted as fear weakened his knees. Limbs snapped and trees swayed as the sounds drew ever closer.

“Get your ass up Eric. It knows where we are and coming fast, we got to get out of here quick.”

Eric hung his head a moment before pushing to his feet and running after Troy. Throat dry, legs aching, head throbbing, fear gripping him tight he fought against the urge to look back, focusing on moving forward. The trail opened to a small clearing, in the center stood an ancient knee high concrete wall that wrapped around headstones and a single small building. Eric rushed toward it and jumped but stumbled to the ground as his toe snagged a jagged gap in the concrete. His face bounced off the hard ground. Pushing to his knees he brushed the leaves and dirt off his clothes before pulling twigs from his hair. Wiping his busted lips he spit the grit out of mouth a looked around.

“Troy? Where are you?”

A calm silence answered him. The hair on the back of his neck stood straight as he strained to hear the chirp of a cricket or the whistle of a bird. Frantic, he shambled forward, gazing and staring at everything and nothing at once. Weaving between the headstones, oblivious to the names forever etched in the stone, he stopped in front of the door to the mausoleum. The lock hung free at the end of the chain. Somebody’s been here. Another howl shattered the night. Eric jumped and pushed on the door. Why won’t you open?

“Troy stop playing its coming we got to hide.”

“Dumbass, you’re suppose to pull the door not push it. Now quick get inside, it’ll be here soon.”

Eric moved with slow, deliberate steps into the waiting darkness, stopping, he felt for the walls. The dark gray beam of light from the doorway shrank as the door closed, shrouding him in total darkness.

“It’s dark as hell in here. I can’t see a thing.”

“Give me a second.”

He listened to the familiar sound of a lighter grating against the flint. A spark of yellow pierced through the dark, small for only a moment before erupting into a larger flame and chasing the darkness to the far corners of the small building.

“Who keeps torches in a place like this?” Eric asked.

Troy looked at him.

“Don’t you remember this place?”

He moved the flame to a nameplate on the wall. Eric leaned close before shuffling back.

“How did we get here? We ran this far?”

Troy nodded his head.

“Yes, it’s been chasing us for a long time. Do you think about Joseph? How long has it been one…two years?”

Eric’s head hung.

“Stop playing Troy. You know today is the one year anniversary and I still say we did the right thing. He had to be…”

A muffled howl outside the door interrupted their conversation.

“Dealt with? Was that what you were going to say Eric? Does it sound like we dealt with it?”

Eric looked at him and the twisted sneer on his face.

“What’s wrong with you?”

Troy stepped to the center of the chamber.

“Do you remember that night?”

“Of course I remember it, I was there.”

A booming sound echoed through the chamber. The walls vibrated and dust fell from the ceiling as the banging continued.

“Shit Troy, it’s here. We’re trapped, what are we going to do?”

Troy eased over to the door and placed one hand against it. Looking back, he smirked.

“What are you doing? You can’t go out there. That thing will tear you to shreds.”

“You’re an idiot Eric. You know, that night was pretty damn exciting. You shooting Joseph and all.”

“Troy stop, you know he was one of those things. He had to be put down. How many people did he murder?”

Troy shrugged his shoulders.

“Why don’t we ask him?”

He pushed open the door. A brisk breeze blew into the chamber, filling the room with fresh crisp air. Eric felt a new wave of sweat trickle down his body. He backed away from the opening until he bumped the wall with his back.

“Shut the door Troy, shut the door.”

“Why? Aren’t you happy to see your best friend Eric?”

He licked his lips as the silhouette of a man was cut out of the shadowy doorway. His back slid against the wall to the far corner. This isn’t possible.

Joseph walked into the room. His shirt was shredded and hung loose from his shoulders. Ripped and tattered pants exposed legs splotched with red stains. Crouching low to the floor he met Eric’s stare with a cold glare.

“Did you miss me?”

“Joseph…how? You should be…we…I don’t understand.”

Joseph laughed.

“I understand your confusion. Allow me to explain. You see, that night was special. It was the last night of the Blood Moon. I just finished a very delightful treat from the college…you know the one. I knew it was only a matter of time before you two caught up to me but…”

He jumped to his feet and stepped closer.

“I never knew you were such a great shot. Bravo but it hurt like hell.”

“How are you here Joseph? I used silver and aimed for your…”

“Heart? Yes you did and you hit it. But a special thing happened that night.”

He stepped over and placed his hand on Troy.

“Where was I? Oh yes, the Blood Moon. You see, my friend, the essence of the beast is strongest during that time of year. In fact, it can survive a great deal.”

“What are you talking about?” Eric asked.

Joseph turned to Troy.

“It’s time to finish your journey.”

Eric stared at Troy as he stepped close and dropped the torch at his feet. Shock and fear gripped him as his friend clutched his midsection and doubled over. Screaming in pain his muscles rippled and contorted, growing large. His fingers curled before stretching and extending. Hair pushed through the pores of his skin, up his arms and over his neck. Long nails scraped the stone floor leaving long gashes behind. Standing, the beast towered over Eric as he stared at rabid yellow eyes. The face of his friend was transformed by a snout, pointed ears, and a mouth full of long curved teeth.

“Troy stop, don’t,” Eric begged.

The beast howled and swiped his massive hand. Blood splattered the wall as an arm fell free from his body. Eric grasped at the ruined stub.

“Stop”

The creature froze. Joseph stood beside it.

“You see, during the Blood Moon an alpha male’s essence is very powerful. Even if you destroy him physically his spirit will hunt for a successor to keep the bloodline alive. It just so happenes, I didn’t have to look very far.”

Joseph patted troy on the chest.

“We’ll done my friend. Finish him and hunt.”

Eric gawked as Joseph vanished into mist a moment before he heard the growl. He screamed one last time as the creature sank his teeth into the sides of his head. Warm blood filled his mouth as a distant howl faded to silence.

7 Comments

Filed under Short Story Contest

The Legend of the Beautiful Brunette By Connie Rice

You may vote by “liking” my facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/BlindoggBooks and putting a “like” under the link to this story OR by placing a comment below. Please vote only once, duplicate votes will not be counted. Thank you! ©Connie Rice 2013 – Used with permission

Why it was then that she finally found him was not a question as they sat side by side, so close to heaven, in the clouds on a fully booked flight to South Africa.  Or why he would be an incomparably handsome Israeli by the name of Ayal, and why he would tell her this name meant “stag”, or why she could not bring her eyes away from his for what seemed like and truly was many hours, long hours that stretched as they went backward in time across the Tropic of Capricorn.

She felt relief, curiosity, and after all this time the first dose of fear.

***

There was a town by the water, a cold place without much in the way of art or culture, a place where people never came to but often went from, its only defining characteristic the preponderance of physically attractive women with silky light blonde hair.  As expected many were distantly related and since the population tended not to mix with newcomers, the gene pool was small.  So these beauties with flowing pale sunshine on their shoulders crossed the streets and worked in the shops and raised their children and eventually grew the prettiest shade of silver grey with or without their happy husbands.  Just like anywhere else there were the secrets and the lies and the in-betweens, just like everywhere else there was the occasional violent crime to scare and remind them to take care, watch out.  They had to be especially protective of the little elfin blonde children, so fragile-seeming and angelic, such sweet, innocent souls to be guarded.

She was the anomaly, not because she was dark haired, not everyone was blonde, just a much larger percentage than usual, but because she was a strikingly beautiful girl along with the shining blackness of her long thick hair.  The words that came to mind, like poetry: onyx, ebony, night was her hair and her skin the most pale porcelain against it, and eyes such a light blue they appeared at times colorless.  These eyes with their pinprick pupils alluded to an inner coldness, fed by the ice of her surroundings, the perpetual winter of this northern town.  From her childhood she stood apart from her classmates, from her siblings even, and her mother being a Godfearing woman was often disturbed by this surprise of her parentage.

But the boys loved her, oh the boys, and the men and the male teachers and the shopkeepers with their candy for this little girl, what’s her name, what pretty hair and those eyes.  A heartbreaker! that word all the time and her mother had the disconcerting feeling of wanting to pull her close and push her away at the same time.  And there was something about this daughter of hers, something hard to control, too many questions and an expression of–my Lord, is that doubt?–when the Bible was read each day, and to her mother’s embarrassment a lack of attention at church on Sunday!  Already the girl was exchanging glances with the men in church, this girl named, in surprise when the infant was born with a full head of dark hair, Simone.  Simone’s mother bade her warning; she told her what was in store.

***

Simone did not have to find a way out of her hometown, because the way out found her.  She wondered at first if this man who approached her in the shopping mall was the one her mother told her about, and listened with attentiveness as he introduced himself as a model scout and placed his business card earnestly in her palm, then repeated it all again, very insistent.  When he asked her age she told him she turned 18 in three weeks and he smiled and nodded his head.

Was her mother sad to see her go, did she try to stop her, it was a fog as she packed her things and said goodbye to this family that had clothed and fed her body and attempted to nourish her soul.  Yes, she remembered her Bible.  Yes, she was wearing her cross.  Yes, she would write, and she did from the first day in the city of New York.  No one looks at me here, she scrawled on hotel stationery, They dress very strange and speak in many languages.  Tomorrow the agency photographer will take pictures of me in the park.  They like my name but they want to change it so I only have one, no last name.

New York City struck her as a likely place to run across the one she sought, and she spent her first year there expecting it to be easy.  But he eluded her even as she quickly made a name for herself in the decadence of high fashion and hedonistic art, her perfect face and body in the highest of demand and her willingness to push the boundary becoming something of a legend.  Yet as the others fell around her, victims of self-destruction and bad luck, she continued to shine and glow.  From this city she began to travel to others and always she found the deepest darkest spots, in her line of work not too hard, so often they handed her the key upon arrival, expecting this remarkable goddess to finally succumb to the filth that she surrounded herself with: yet no rock star romance dismantled her, no eating disorder or drug addiction could touch her.  And still she was somehow aloof.

I am in Los Angeles, which in Spanish means Lost Angels, she wrote to her mother.  I saw my picture on a billboard today.  Yesterday there was an earthquake.

Her mother responded: Remember what Peter tells us in Chapter 5, Verse 8: “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.”

Simone saved all her mothers letters, and nothing else.  Not even the expensive jewelry her lovers bestowed upon her, or the couture clothes the designers begged her to wear, or even a single matchbook from a million establishments where she danced and drank and indulged all manner of substances, always with her eyes wandering the room for clues.  They called her mysterious, they called her wild, they said she was sleepwalking through life.  Through a charmed life, made charming by a perfect bone structure and the build of a goddess.

***

Sometimes she thought she had found the one, but it didn’t pan out.  The brilliant painter with a penchant for blood, the nefarious politician with the obscene tattoos under his conservative suits, the drug dealer and con artist and soldier.  At first it was paydirt, then as time progressed the cracks began to show and she moved on, sometimes they cared but usually they didn’t.  Her friends questioned her taste in men, didn’t she play the bad boy game a little hard, did she see the danger for what it was, didn’t she want love?

I don’t know if I want love, she explained on paper to her mother, from a penthouse in Paris.  I wonder what would have happened if I never left home.  I wonder if anyone still remembers me there.  Besides you of course. 

The closest she had come was in the place she most expected to have success: Las Vegas.  The word in her industry was that this was the hole of candy-coated failure, extravagance, and regret.  And when she arrived it was almost immediately that the man she was warned repeatedly about requested her presence.  A shiver went through her as she put on her blackest dress and reddest lipstick, shoes that would bring a fetishist to his knees, eyes darkly lined in kohl like the Egyptians of her mother’s Bible.  She wrapped herself in a fur coat and cuddled the dead creature against her face as she rode in the back of the limousine he had sent for her.

The car left the pulsing lights of the city and traveled deep into the desert.  Her breathing was heavy and she tried to keep her voice from quavering when the driver asked her name.  So that’s you?  You are that model?  Simone?

She lit a cigarette to steady her nerves.  She knew perfectly well this might be the last one of her life.  She knew this going into it.

A real heartbreaker, the driver mused.  Her own heart leapt in her chest.  This was it!  It had to be!

And better still the driver pulled off onto a dirt road and stopped in the seeming middle of nowhere.  She kept herself from asking where she was, because what did it matter.  The driver got out and opened her door, she began to slide towards the exit but instead he was coming inside.  Cold desert air, chunky with dust, blew into the car before he got it slammed shut.  He sat across from her and lit his own cigarette, out of a silver case.  There were initials carved on the top of the case and she recognized them, and therefore him, at once.  His disguise had been a good one and she complimented him on that.

He grasped one of her feet and set the expensive shoe on his lap, stroking the exposed skin.  He offered her an extremely large sum of money to sleep with him.  This was not unexpected, it was in fact what he was very well known to do with famous actresses, models, heiresses, anyone worth a high price, that was his modus operandi and only the very desperate sought him out as she had.  But Simone wasn’t desperate.  Not in that way anyway.  Simone was actually quite patient, and would have to continue to be so because it became almost instantly apparent that this sad billionaire was not the one she had been seeking.  His demeanor of thinly veiled eagerness tipped her off.

She gave herself to him anyway, wondering if such a transaction might bring her closer to her goal, watching shadows at play in the back of the limousine, catching glimpses of beasts among the shapes and forms.

I met W______  R_______ last night, she wrote to her mother.  He was an interesting man.  I’m sending you some gifts I picked up, I hope you like them.

*** 

Her mother may have been pretty once, but not enough to mean much in a town like theirs, you had to be stunning to stand out there, to mean something.  From a young age she had been drawn to religion, to the perfect answers of the church, the lack of doubt and questions that came along with it.  Her very first Bible was a small pink covered book given to her when she was five years old and it was the first thing she learned to read.  She showed it to her daughter Simone once, this book her treasure and her light and her anchor, but Simone looked at it like it was just another inanimate object; stranger still this child looked at almost everything that way: dolls, jewelry, even little baby animals that no other girl could resist cuddling.

Simone’s mother lived for her Tuesday and Friday night Bible study groups.  She brought her children with her on occasion and it was at one of these serious spiritual gatherings that the twelve year old Simone was shown the way.  They were reading James and all became focused on Chapter 4, Verse 7:  Submit yourselves therefore to God.  Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.   As the others attempted to find deep meaning in these words and the ones surrounding them, raven haired Simone went deep inside herself and began to think very clearly.  And the conclusion that she drew was this:  But what if you did not resist?  What if you did not cause the devil to flee and instead…embraced him?

This not being the first time that Simone had considered the devil; growing up with a righteous mother like her own she had been told of the devil for as long as she could recall.  God was the star of the show but the devil was always there, in the details as they say.  Simone’s ears perked up when Lucifer made his appearances at Bible study discussions, the group usually getting more animated and louder than usual.  She drew from this that Satan was the most powerful, the most exciting, the enchantment that the goodness of God did not promise to her.  She sought out books in the public library that dealt with this character outside of the Bible.  From what she gathered, witches were known to fornicate with the devil.  He came in many different forms.  He was once an angel, cast out when he went against the rules of heaven.  Now his wings were black but he was still an angel, now of death.  Simone found herself thinking of this entity as she matured, as her friends lusted after the latest teen heartthrobs she had another in mind.  And she knew that one day she would find a way to be with him.

And when the model scout approached her in the mall years later, promising a door that would open into the big wide world, Simone began to suspect that the devil may have had a hand in it.

***

She had gone to jobs in Africa before, she had flown first class before, she had even sat beside impressive and attractive men on flights like this, before.  Sometimes they interested her but usually they did not.  But it seemed that from the moment the plane took off that she could feel the energy coming from the dark man beside her.  And he simply stared at her, made no pretense of being casual.  She was used to being stared at but certainly not in first class.  It occurred to her that he might be insane.  But those things never deterred her before, what was this apprehension she was experiencing?  This tremor in her chest, her hair standing on end.  Never before…but then she knew.

It’s you, she said at once, finally turning to meet his gaze.

And it’s you, he laughed.  For a moment she felt she had made a mistake, felt her face crumble a bit.  My name is Ayal and I am originally from Israel, he said, smiling.

I’m Simone, I’m from nowhere.  Still unsure, she made conversation: What takes you to Africa?

I do a lot of business there.  And you?

The same.  I’m a model.  It’s very…vogue…there right now.  I’m told. 

So it is.  Very.

The flight attendant refilled their champagne glasses.  She offered them amenities to make the flight as comfortable as possible, then politely moved on to the next row of passengers.  Simone looked out the window as the plane rose higher and higher above the beautiful endless clouds.  How close are we to heaven? she said.

The farthest you can get, he replied.

She brought her pale eyes level with his black ones.  I never broke a single heart, she said.

I know, he said, and when he touched her arm it was as if she were freezing and melting at the same time.  And you never will.   

Leave a comment

Filed under Short Story Contest