Between Time – Round 4 in NYC Midnight Short Fiction Contest

Posted in Short Fiction Contest with tags , , on October 22, 2008 by zen4lar

The rules: 1000 words or less. Location: A laundry Mat. Object: A hammer,. Genre: Romance. 48 hrs to write it

Between Time

Sometimes a listening ear and strong arms are all it takes to finally make the spinning stop.

It was late. I was drifting between sleep and consciousness. Some kind of commotion was going on outside. I got out of bed and looked out the window. A flickering streetlight illuminated three homeless people fighting over a pile of clothes on the sidewalk below. A ghostly white shirt floated downward like a disembodied suicide jumper. The most desperate of the three, shirtless and barefoot, leapt up and snatched it out of the air and was immediately tackled by the other two.

Los Angeles is a venomous city at night. I decided to get dressed and go for a walk.

I stepped out of my apartment and nearly collided with a storm of a girl.
“What the fuck?” she jumped back defensively.
“Sorry,” I said lamely, “The hallways in this crappy building are so poorly lit.”
Even in the darkness I knew who she was. She lived at 12A at the far end of the hall. I had never spoken to her because she was always with some guy, carrying in groceries or whatnot. Now, at approximately three-thirty on a Wednesday morning, she was alone and struggling with a huge cloth bag, slung over one shoulder. In her free hand she carried a menacing claw hammer.
“Can I help you with your bag?” I asked.
“No,” she continued to the elevator.
She stabbed at the call button repeatedly, each time a bit more furiously. Sensing me behind her, she turned and gave me a withering stare.
“I’m not following you—”
“Good for you,” she dismissed me, stabbing at the button a few more times. There was no sound or movement from the elevator.
“Don’t you dare tell me you’re not working, you fucking piece of shit!” she screamed.
Nothing happened. She kicked the steel door, picked up her bag and stormed to the stairway. I hesitated before following her. She was halfway down the first landing.
I called down, “Hey, listen. I’m going down anyway. Let me walk with you. This building is not all that safe.”
“I have a hammer,” she spat.
“I noticed.”
“I don’t need any help from any man!”
“Never said you did. I’m just trying to be a good citizen.”
She seemed to consider the eleven more flights of darkened stairs before acquiescing.
“What the fuck. It’s a free country.”
“Used to be, but the price seems to be going up lately,” I quipped in an unsuccessful attempt at levity.

We went down the next few flights in silence.
“I’m Pete, by the way.”
I held out my hand. She let me shake her hammer.
“Opal.”
“Opal?”
“Yeah,” she said defiantly. “What of it?”
“Nothing… kind of an odd time to be doing laundry… Opal.”
“It’s none of your business when I do my laundry.”
“True.”
“Kind of a strange time to go for a walk… Pete.”
“Cigarettes, you know how it is.”
“No.”

We climbed down the rest of the stairs to the ground floor in silence. She pointed toward the front door, “Cigarettes are that way. Have a nice smoke.” To get to the damp and shadowy laundry room she would have to pass through the equally damp and shadowy underground garage.
“How ‘bout I see you to the laundry room?”
At last she resigned, dropped her bag and really looked at me for the first time.
“You can carry my bag.”
She kept the hammer.

She dumped the sheets and pillowcases into the washer, added soap and an entire bottle of bleach.
We sat on the floor with our backs to the wall. The washer rumbled. Opal pulled out a pack of cigarettes and offered me one.
“No, thanks.”
“You asshole.”
“Me? You’re the one that was going to let me walk the dark streets alone at this time of night.”
She finally grinned.

The soak cycle started.

“What do you do?” she asked.
“I’m between.”
“Between? Between what? Jobs, relationship, a rock and a hard place?”
“Just between. Waiting, floating… between.”
“That tells me nothing.”
I shrugged.

The spin cycle chugged into gear.

We talked about nothing. She smoked. Opal was hurting, but avoided the issue. The washer sputtered to a stop. She dumped her laundry into the dryer. She sat back down beside me. She stared at the purified sheets spinning in the dryer window. Then Opal spilled in a torrent of tears.

“I walked in on them… they were fucking in our bed on our sheets! It was awful, so awful. I told him to get the hell out but he wouldn’t leave. He told me to calm down. ‘Calm down?’ That’s when I picked this up,” she said, tightening her grip around the hammer. “It was all I could do. I threw his clothes out the window.”

In my mind’s eye I saw the white shirt floating down to the city sidewalk.

“He constantly breaks me apart… shatters me… no more, no more…” she cried. I put my arms around Opal. She finally released the hammer. It clattered to the floor.

The dryer finished.

For some mysterious reason the elevator now worked. We rode up in silence. The doors pulled open. We stepped out of the elevator.

I noticed him at the end of the hall, clumped against her door, barefoot and asleep. Apparently he had won the struggle. He was wearing the torn and dirty white shirt.
Opal noticed him as well.
I handed her the bag of sheets. She handed me the hammer. There was nothing to say. She walked down the hall and gently shook him awake.
I went into my apartment and closed the door on what remained of the night.

Dionysus Dissolving

Posted in 2014 NYC Midnight Flash Fiction with tags , on October 10, 2014 by zen4lar

Round 2 in the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction competition.  My first story, Every Little Detail earned me 4 points out of a possible 15 (25 entries per group, only top 15 receive points, others all get zero. Round 2 same thing. Then you combine your scores and the top 5 in each group move on to the finals).

This round 1000 words maximum. The setting: A winery. The genre: Suspense. A necessary object: An Ice Sculpture.

The Result: Dionysus Dissolving.

vineyaard

“His lips drink water, but his heart drinks wine” – e.e. cummings

 

The sun glinted off the blue-green sharpshooter as it hopped up onto the dried vine, searching for a place to lay its eggs. Its bright green carapace the only spot of color amongst the rows of brown, fruitless stalks of the Silenus Vineyard.

The sharpshooter, like its locust cousin, carried its own form of plague–Pierce’s disease, a bacteria that prevented the vine from absorbing water and eventually die. Not that there was any water left to absorb after five years of drought, broken well pumps and the decimation of savings that had left Silenus Vineyards destitute of water and life.

A drop of water rolled off the proffered cup, hung suspended for a moment then fell to the floor where a small pool had collected.

Peter Silenus fixated on it.

“Interesting choice,” a woman said, suddenly at his side. “Most men would have ordered a nude woman.”

“What?” Peter turned to her, broken out of his reverie.

She wore a bemused smile. “The ice sculpture. It’s very… lifelike.”

It was very well done, life-size and anatomically correct in every detail.

“Do you know who it is?” Peter asked.

“Not for certain, but I can guess,” she said, drinking from her wine goblet. “Not Bacchus, the Greek gods were more brutish, less dainty, ergo he’s Roman. Dionysus?”

“Correct,” Peter said. “He’s said to be one of the dying gods.”

“Well, he is melting,” The woman said, as she watched another drop rolled down Dionysus’ chest, his belly, then off his erect penis onto the floor. “An obvious choice for a vineyard wedding.”

“Yes, he is.”

“Perhaps we should re-join the wedding? Your daughter is probably wondering where you are … ” She waited a moment, and then finished her wine. “I need a refill,” she announced, hoping he would join her.

Peter was back to studying the statue. More drips were forming. More drops falling.

Dionysus dissolving.

Peter sipped from a glass of water as he watched the moon climb past the mountains to the east, illuminating the vineyard in pale, blue light. A soft, warm wind blew off the hills. Dust devils danced down the neat, skeletal rows of dried vines, kicking up more dust, as if to emphasize the desiccation, placing a final layer of dirt over a bone-yard of hope.

The distant sounds of laughter, thumping of the DJ’s bass speaker, clinking glasses of wines being toasted, drunk and refilled, drunk and refilled–filtered out to him.

Peter’s cellar was thrown wide open, his stores depleting, his reserve flowing out.

Persephone was drunk, which was her right and duty as the bride. She sloppily drank Silenus Merlot from a silver chalice, spilling and staining the front of her wedding gown.

Her husband pointed this out to her.

“So what? I’ll never wear it again,” she laughed, as she poured the rest of her wine down her nearly exposed bosom, then forced her new husband’s face into it. His muffled laughter and eager tongue tickled her and she giggled happily.

A couple staggered down one of the long rows of vines. He made a sudden attempt to hug her, feel her up, seduce her … pushing her against one of the wooden stalk supports. The stalk snapped like a gunshot, the vine broke, dried up marbles of dead grapes scattered, as they fell, laughing, onto the dirt where they made dusty, stained love.

When Peter passed Dionysus, his face had melted away: a nude, dying god still offering up the grape.

Peter continued upstairs to his room. He sat at his writing table and inscribed a note. He signed it, folded it and carefully placed it into an off-white envelope.

On the outside he wrote: ‘To my darling daughter. Read this only AFTER your honeymoon. Love always, Dad.’

The orgy of festivity vibrated up through the floorboards.

The muddy pool of water around Dionysus’ remaining torso attracted a skimming mosquito. She drank a miniscule amount of water, then, being an unsatisfied female, went off in thirst for blood.

Despite the debris of broken bottles and sticky, spilled wine, Peter found the dim, quiet of the wine cellar reassuring. He laid his pounding head against the cool wall allowing the scorching heat from the day, seemingly trapped inside his body, to ebb into the bricks.

A well-endowed brunette, nearly falling out of her dress, as she nearly fell down the stairs, laughed at her own ineptitude.

“Hello,” she called out, spotting Peter. “I came for more wine,” she giggled, looking around the bottle-lined walls. “Do you think there’s any left?”

Peter raised his head. “I have just what you need.”

He led her back to where a thick, wooden door, was nearly hidden in a dark recess.

“Spooky,” the girl giggled, grabbing his hand for comfort.

He pulled out an old fashioned key and unlocked the door to a cramped stone room with a bare bulb hung from the ceiling.

Peter yanked the chain, lighting it. The bulb swung in, illuminating empty wine racks, save for two, dust-cobbed bottles before them; then swung out, catching the glint of a revolver’s barrel, unseen by the girl, atop the far rack.

“These are the last two remaining bottles from our very first cuvee,” Peter said handing her a bottle.

“Yummy!” She examined the label. “It’s older, than me. Is it still good?”

“Definitely.”

“Goodie,” she pressed the bottle against her chest. “Let’s go drink it!”

“I can’t, but will you give this to Persephone for me?” He handed her the envelope.

“Are you sure you don’t want to party?”

“Just make sure she gets the letter.”

“Okie-dokie!” she giggled, leaving him alone.

The bulb continued to sway as the last bottled was uncorked, the gun no longer on the shelf.

The giggling girl slipped in the pool of water left by Dionysus. She fell to the ground with a night shattering scream, the ancient bottle of wine smashing with a bang, spilling the blood of grapes across the thirsty soil.

***

© 2014 zenrage

Every Little Detail

Posted in 2014 NYC Midnight Flash Fiction on August 22, 2014 by zen4lar

The NYCMIDNIGHT Flash Fiction 2014 round 1 assignment.  1000 words max in 48 hours. The story must include

  1. Genre: Crime Caper
  2. Location: Tobacco Shop
  3. Object: Pocket Mirror

Thus we have:  Every Little Detail.

 

When planning the perfect caper, every little detail must be considered, but then again, there is no such thing as the perfect crime.

 

“I don’t know, Jeremy, it sounds pretty risky,” Steve argued as he picked through the store’s candy selection.

“Of course it’s risky,” Jeremy replied. “It’s a caper. All caper’s are risky.”

“Yeah, but this one’s stupid too.”

” It’s a statement,” Jeremy said absently, mesmerized by the tired, wrinkled hot dogs rolling endlessly on the steel heating tubes. “It’s art.”

“Everything is not art, just because you say it is.”

“It’s also a political statement. I’m 1/16th Micmac.”

“Isn’t that’s the Indian tribe from Pet Semetery?”

“We are a proud tribe, fond of our animal brethren.”

“You’re definitely fond of bull sh-“

“Hey! Are you going to buy a hot dog or just look at them?” The clerk called out.

“Not sure they’re done yet,” Jeremy replied. “I’ll get back to you.”

“Great,” the clerk said.

“So, are you in?” Jeremy asked.

Suzie popped up between them before Steve could answer. She was drinking a Slurpee through a mustache straw–a straw attachment that made it look like she was sporting a plastic ‘stache.

“I think the caper idea sounds grand!” she announced, wiggling her moustache.

Jeremy stared at her, eyes widening.

“Timing is everything,” explained Jeremy as he diagrammed the caper at the dry erase board in his studio (a converted shed behind his parent’s house).

Besides Steve and Suzie, were the ‘Crash Kids’-twins Charles and Nick, sporting skate gear and holding boards.

“The key to success is paying attention to every little detail. Sundown is at exactly 6:45.” He drew a smiling sun on the board. “Tabacco’s Tobacco Shop faces due west, and has a huge plate-glass window. Sunday our town is dead. It’s our best chance to be unobserved. Any questions?”

Steve shot up his hand. “Why are they here?” He jerked a thumb at the Crash Kids.

“Diversion, but only if needed.”

“Can we see the ringer?” Suzie asked.

“Of course,” Jeremy removed the sheet with a flourish. The ‘ringer’ was a five feet, five-inch plaster statue.

There was a prolonged moment of silence.

Nick said, “Gnarly.” Charles nodded. “Righteous. Is that Yoda?”

“I’m pretty sure Yoda didn’t wear wire rim glasses,” Suzie insisted.

 

The pink mustached Lyft car pulled up.

“Nice touch on the ‘stach car,” Steve fist bumped Jeremy.

“My mom has an account,” Jeremy grinned. “A successful caper depends on paying attention to every little detail.”

“Are you Shirley?” The driver asked Jeremy.

“No, she is,” pointing to the statue.

“Okay,” the driver shrugged. “Is she riding up front?”

“No, the trunk.”

“Where are we heading?”

“Follow this route precisely, my good man,” Jeremy instructed, handing the driver a carefully detailed map.

 

The route Jeremy had chosen took them down every back alley and less travelled road in their small town. As they pulled up behind Tabacco’s, Jeremy texted the crash twins: READY IN 5.

Jeremy turned to the others in the back seat.

“Okay, everyone knows what to do?

They nodded.

“I need five minutes. Leave your cell’s on vibrate. I’ll call you when all’s clear.”

“We know,” Suzie insisted, climbing out of the car. “‘We’ve paid attention to every little detail.‘” mimicking Jeremy perfectly.

 

Nick and Charles stood ready on their skateboards at opposite ends of Miner Avenue. No cars or pedestrians in sight.

 

Steve and Suzie entered Tabacco’s slurping Slurpees, their faces hidden behind plastic moustaches straws.

Even through the sun’s glare, Tabacco could tell from their size that they were kids.

“Can’t sell no cigarettes to no minors,” Tabacco snarled.

“How about e-cigarettes?” Steve asked.

“No. And before you ask, not even candy cigarettes.”

“Really? Not even cand–?”

“Can I see that mirrored cigarette cases?” Suzie cut in. “It’s for my mom.”

Tabacco’s eyes blinked from the glaring sunlight. “I suppose that’s okay.”

 

Outside Jeremy managed to wrangle his statue out of the trunk and wheel it around to the side of Tabacco’s. He was about to turn the corner when his phone vibrated.

CAR! Nick’s text read.

Jeremy peeked around the corner. A slow-moving sedan was coming down Miner Avenue.

PLAN A! he texted back.

 

Nick kicked his board into position, and then rolled out in front of the car, still a fair distance away. Nick purposely failed an anti-Casper and wiped out on the street. The car screeched to a halt and the passenger rushed out to see if he was okay.

 

Jeremy moved quickly. He pushed his statue next to the Wooden Indian that had been decorating Tabacco’s for 60 years, used chain cutters to free it then switched places with his statue. He tossed the sheet over the Indian, started to wheel it back to the car, when the bolt cutters fell and clanged loudly to the ground.

“Shit!”

 

Suzie admired the mirrored cigarette case. “She could use it as a compact too,” she said.

CLANG!

“What was that?” Tabacco asked, suspicious.

“What?” Suzie asked, turning and angling the mirror into a laser beam of sunlight into Tabacco’s eyes.

“Whoa! Watch it kid!” he cried, his eyes instantly tearing up.

Steve and Suzie’s phones vibrated simultaneously.

“Decided against it, bye!” Suzie cried, dropping the cigarette case on the counter, as she and Steve rushed out.

Tabacco squinted painfully after them. “Hey, where are you going?”

cigar Indian

The three celebrated with pizza, cokes and TV at Jeremy’s studio.

“To the Indian Caper!’ Jeremy toasted.

“The Indian Caper!” Suzie and Steve cheered.

On TV the reporter announced, “A bizarre crime occurred today at Tabacco’s Tobacco Shop, when his beloved wooden Indian was replaced by a bizarre statue of what appears to be another Indian, Mahatma Gandhi . . . or perhaps Yoda.”

Suzie and Steve laughed.

“Yoda? Oh, come on!” Jeremy protested.

“While there’s no explanation for the exchange, in an odd twist, it appears the artist is a local youth who actually signed his name on the statue.”

A polite knock, then Jeremy’s mother’s voice was at the door. “Jeremy? There’s a policeman here who would like to speak to you.”

 

 

 

PARTY ANIMALS

Posted in 2014 NYC Midnight Short Screenplay Comp on May 15, 2014 by zen4lar

2014 NYC Midnight Short Screenplay Round 1 entry

Heat Requirements:  Political Satire, Ribbon Cutting Ceremony & Make-up Artist.


LOGLINE

‘All’s fair in love and politics’– an adage applied to the hilt in this small town mayoral race.


 

FADE IN:
INT. BARN, SMALL TOWN AMERICA – MORNING
An errant streak of sunlight stabs MAYOR JED THOMAS (50’s, pale and paunchy) directly into his one opened, bleary eye.

 

MAYOR THOMAS
Shit!

He’s slurry mouthed and severely hung over.  He tries to turn his head, but strong hands hold it place.

TALIA
Hold still!

Thomas opens his other eye to find a pretty woman’s face (TALIA, dark-haired, about 25) inches from his.  She squints with intensity, her tongue sticks out of the corner of her mouth, as she applies his make-up.

MAYOR THOMAS
You’re pretty.

TALIA
I know.

MAYOR THOMAS
Who are you again?

Thomas attempts to crane his neck down to study her long legs and short skirt, but is jerked back into position.

TALIA
I’m from the TV station. I’m doing your make-up,

so stop moving!

MAYOR THOMAS
Whatever you say, Sweetie. Keep doing what you’re doing.

It feels fine.

TALIA
I plan to.

She continues to apply the thick, white make-up.

MAYOR THOMAS
How come I don’t know a pretty ‘lil thing like you?

TALIA
I just got in last night.

MAYOR THOMAS
‘Cuz I know most women ‘round here.

TALIA
I’ve heard.

MAYOR THOMAS
Yes indeed. ‘Cuz, I’m the Mayor.

Thomas chews on something he discovers in his mouth.

MAYOR THOMAS
Am I going to be on TV?

TALIA
That’s the idea.

Thomas grins lewdly.

MAYOR THOMAS
I got a big erection coming up you know.

TALIA
I’m well aware of that.

Thomas runs his finger down his cheek. The make-up is thick, white and greasy.

MAYOR THOMAS
What’s this?

She slaps his hand away.

TALIA
Sunscreen. Stop touching it, you’ll ruin it.

MAYOR THOMAS
Do I need this much?

TALIA
You’re going to get a lot of exposure.

MAYOR THOMAS
I rather expose you–

GROANS. His hands go to his head.

MAYOR THOMAS
Oh. That’s not good. Do you have aspirin? My head feels like a

Columbus Day parade marched over- What’s that awful smell?

TALIA
Elephant shit. I’ll get you an aspirin, Mister Mayor.

Thomas ogles her as she walks to a table with a few craft services on it.

MAYOR THOMAS
Jed, please,  only my wife and constituents call me Mister Mayor.

Talia returns with a bottle of water and some aspirin.  He pops about six in his mouth and gulps some water.

MAYOR THOMAS
You are one fine drink of water, Missy.

TALIA
It’s Talia.

MAYOR THOMAS
Talia. I rather like that.  Well, Talia, I seem to have had a rough night.

Was it with you?

Talia chooses some bright red paint from her palette and fills her brush.

TALIA
No. I was there, but you didn’t see me,

you were busy partying with your ‘assistant.’

The mayor grins as he dry chews a few more aspirins.

MAYOR THOMAS
Ah… ya, I now almost ‘member.

BEGIN FLASHBACK

INT. YOUR ALIBI BAR – LAST NIGHT

Thomas is at the bar, three sheets to the wind.  SHEILA, his assistant (20’s sexy blonde) beside him equally smashed.  She’s well stacked, low cut and close to falling out; he’s leaning so far forward he’s close to falling in.  Jed whispers something in Sheila’s ear.  Sheila blushes, laughs then falls off her bar stool.

Jed slips a Micky into Sheila’s drink before bending down to help her up.

Talia, unseen by Jed, slides in besides him and slips a Micky into his drink. Talia disappears into the crowd like a Ninja.

END FLASHBACK

MAYOR THOMAS
Were you were there?  I missed that ass?

TALIA
You were having some fun.

Talia cheerfully paints a large red grin on his face.

MAYOR THOMAS
So, where’s Sheila?

TALIA
I sent Sheila home. She passed out.

MAYOR THOMAS
You know where she lives?

TALIA
No. I sent her to your house.

MAYOR THOMAS
HA!  Good one!  I imagine I should be hearing from wifey any moment.

CLOSE ON – MAYOR THOMAS cell phone on the craft service table.  It vibrates. The phone screen reads:  WIFEY. 27 MESSAGES.  It switches to 28 MESSAGES.  Then stops.

TALIA
She’ll be at the ribbon cutting ceremony.

MAYOR THOMAS
Oh. Um, what ribbon cut-?

TALIA
For the new hospital.

Almost done here.  Let me just take the shine off your nose.

Thomas attempts to snap his fingers in revelation.

MAYOR THOMAS
Ah!  The new… that’s why I’m here!

Talia dabs a blue ball of paint over his nose. She stands back to admire her work.  Thomas admires her admiring him.

MAYOR THOMAS
How do I look?

Thomas is the epitome of a hung-over, sickly circus clown.

TALIA
Sublime.

MAYOR THOMAS
(looks about for a mirror)
I like that.  Don’t know what it means but…

He loses his words as his eyes try to focus on a bright pink baby ELEPHANT at the back of the barn.  The elephant looks up at him then goes back to eating hay, uninterested.

MAYOR THOMAS
My mind’s kinda fussy, but maybe it’s time

to acknowledge the el’phant in the room…

Talia walks over to the elephant and pats her affectionately.

TALIA
You mean Fifi?

MAYOR THOMAS
(relieved)
So you see it too.

TALIA
Of course.

MAYOR THOMAS
And he’s here why?

TALIA
Because you’re a Republican.

MAYOR THOMAS
Oh… I see. No. Actually, I don’t.

TALIA
You’re running against John Simpson, Democrat.

MAYOR THOMAS
Slimy ass bastard.  So?

Talia’s smile breaks slightly, then returns to full warmth.  She brings an iPad over to Thomas.

TALIA
Watch.

INSERT: RECORDED CHANNEL 5 LOCAL NEWS STORY FROM A WEBSITE.

INT. FREEDOM HIGH SCHOOL GYMNASIUM – NIGHT

JENNY JOHNSON (young, vapid blonde reporter) holds a microphone slightly bigger than her IQ as she stands on the basketball court sidelines.

JENNY JONES
It’s all ass and balls here-

CAMERAMAN (O.C.)
You can’t say that!

JENNY JONES
What? Okay just rewind.

CAMERAMAN (O.C.)
We’re live!  Just read the cards.

JENNY JONES
I was shortening-

CAMERAMAN (O.C.)
Just read the cards!

JENNY JONES
Whatever.  It’s all donkeys and basketballs here tonight at the

Freedom High School gym, as the twenty second annual

Celebrity Donkey Basketball Tournament gets underway.

ON COURT – PLAYERS ride donkeys while trying to shoot baskets.  The audience ROARS with laughter as the uncooperative donkeys and out-of-shape ‘athletes’ crash into each other.

A CAPTION: DEMOCRATIC MAYORAL HOPEFUL, JOHN SIMPSON appears over a handsome, 50’s man having a great time as he shoots wildly and misses.

BACK TO JENNY JONES

JENNY JONES
The audience ‘hoops’ it up cheering on their favorite asses…

and donkeys, but it’s all for a good cause.  I’m Jenny Jones and-

SHIT!

She looks down.

JENNY JONES
Come on! These were new shoes!

END INSERT

MAYOR THOMAS
(laughing)
I told you he was an ass.  What a loser.  Did you see him miss that easy shot?

TALIA
He scored big points with that little stunt.

Thomas’ grin fades.  A flash of desperation.

MAYOR THOMAS
He’s not ahead in the polls is he?

TALIA
He’s gaining.

Thomas staggers over to Talia and the elephant.

MAYOR THOMAS
S’kay, I get it. He rode a scrawny donkey,

I’ll ride a freaking elephant!

He pats FiFi clumsily.  Then turns to Talia with concern.

MAYOR THOMAS
He doesn’t bite does he?

TALIA
She doesn’t have teeth. You two have that much in common.

Thomas misses her comment.  He’s mesmerized be the feel of elephant hide.  He strokes her sensously.

MAYOR THOMAS
Bigger.  Stronger.  Regal. THE KING OF THE JUNGLE.

Like me.  Oh yes… Daddy likes.

His hands come away pink.

TALIA
Not to mention she’s the symbol of your party.

MAYOR THOMAS
I hadn’t even thought of that.  Good!  You’ve got a nice piece of brains

to go with that nice piece-

TALIA
Why don’t you climb aboard?

MAYOR THOMAS
I don’t want to mess up my suit.

Thomas reaches down and tries to smooth his ill-fitting, crumbled, many seasons past style, suit.  He leaves pink streaks behind.

TALIA
(sexy)
Maybe you’re right.  Why don’t you just take it off.

MAYOR THOMAS
Well, okay, if you insist.  Let me get out-

He removes his pants, nearly falling over in the process.  He’s reaching to drop his Sponge Bob boxers when Talia stops him.

TALIA
Keep your panties on Mayor.

There’s no time.  The ribbon cutting starts in a few minutes.

MAYOR THOMAS
(winks)
Later then?

TALIA
Oh yeah, later.

He strikes a Rod Stewart pose and accent.

MAYOR THOMAS
Do you think I’m sexy?

Talia regards the chubby man in crappy clown make-up and wrinkled white, pink streaked shirt, loud tie and boxers.

TALIA
(she curls her lip)
Grrrr…

The mayor grins wider and reaches for her.  She spins him toward a step ladder leading up to the elephant’s saddle.

TALIA
Up you go.

MAYOR THOMAS
What goes up must go down!

She shoves his bottom up as he climbs up into the saddle.

TALIA
Yes, clever. You have no idea how true.

The mayor settles into saddle. Talia takes the reins and leads the elephant out the barn.

EXT. CLEAR SKIES HOSPITAL, DAY – MINUTES LATER

A CROWD has gathered outside the new hospital building.  A bright red ribbon stretches across the entrance.  Members of the CITY COUNCIL are lined up beside CHAIRWOMAN VERONICA KEYES, who holds a giant pair of gold scissors at the ready.

Jenny Jones and the LIVE 5 camera crew is there amongst a throng of other media bloggers and one regional newspaper.  Even John Simpson stands by.

MRS. JUNE THOMAS, the Mayor’s wife, (50’s stern and very unhappy) pushes Sheila, still passed out, in a wheelbarrow up to the front of the crowd.

THE FREEDOM HIGH SCHOOL MARCHING BAND marches in place, playing ‘We are the Champions’ badly. All eyes await the arrival of the Mayor.

JENNY JONES
(bored, into camera)
What a magical day.  You can almost taste the excitement.

The unseen, heralding TRUMPET of Fifi announces the Mayor, who appears from around a corner, waving drunkenly, led by a grinning Talia.

The CHEERS turn to confused GASPS, CRIES of outrage, nervous LAUGHTER then finally silence as the band strangles out a few last out of tune notes.  The Mayor rides the last few hundred feet in absolute silence.  A tumbleweed blows across his path.

A small CHILD points and cries out.

CHILD
Mommy that clown’s poopy looking!

She hides, frightened, behind her mother’s skirts. Mayor Thomas, confused, carries on dauntless.

MAYOR THOMAS
Esteemed townfolks,  I’m honored to announce

the grand opening of the… Of this…

He leans down at Talia.

MAYOR THOMAS
What’s this place again?

TALIA
Clear Skies Rehabilitation Center.

MAYOR THOMAS
Oh, yeah!  The losers hotel.

More GASPS, as his words are overheard.  Thomas finally takes notice of the hostile crowd: the glaring, beady eyes of his wife; Sheila in the wheelbarrow; and John Simpson waving at him. Thomas waves back, just as reality sinks in.

MAYOR THOMAS
Something’s not right here.

Talia returns Simpson’s wave.

TALIA
Hey, Dad!

MAYOR THOMAS
Dad?

Talia drops the reins and rushes over to her father just as Veronica Keyes storms up, threatening, brandishing her shiny cardboard scissors.

VERONICA KEYES
Mr. Mayor is this some kind of a sick joke?

Thomas screams and shies back in fright.

MAYOR THOMAS
WATCH IT!  THOSE LOOK SHARP!

Fifi, startled, releases her breakfast out her back end as she lurches forward in panic. Thomas pinwheels his arms, as he slides off FiFi’s back and plops into her plop.  FiFi TRUMPETS and races off.

Thomas rises up partway. His eyes swoon. He pukes out last night’s Martinis and promptly passes out.

Jenny Jones, careful of her shoes, picks her way to his side.

JENNY JONES
It has been a clean campaign up to now.

CLOSE ON MAYOR face down in the muck.

JENNY JONES (O.C.)
But it looks like that’s changed.

FADE TO BLACK:

FADE IN:

INT. CHANNEL FIVE STUDIOS, LIVE MONITOR – MORNING

ON SCREEN TITLE CARD: LIVE FROM MA POP’S DINER

A quaint eatery packed with locals. Mayor Thomas sips coffee as June sits across from him, smiling weakly.   Jenny Jones shoves a microphone into his face.

JENNY JONES
Mister Mayor, the whole town, even the world,

is literally a buzz about your ‘appearance’ yesterday.

MAYOR THOMAS
(beaming)
Yes, I hear it’s gone viral!  I’m glad to see that most Americans still retain a sense of humor,

even if my esteemed rival hasn’t.

JENNY JONES
Are you saying that your arrival plastered on an elephant,

in clown make-up, was intentional?

MAYOR THOMAS
Yes, of course.

He turns aside to his wife.

MAYOR THOMAS
Clown make-up?

June nods curtly.  Thomas shrugs and turns back to Jenny.

MAYOR THOMAS
I wanted to illustrate that drinking and driving any vehicle,

or pachyderm, will not be tolerated within these city limits.

Thankfully our town now has a place for quitters,

I mean people who want to quit, to go to.

JENNY JONES
And will you be checking in?

MAYOR THOMAS
Me?  Of course not.  I don’t have a drinking problem.

He raises a cup of joe to the camera with a dazzling smile.

MAYOR THOMAS
Which I’m sure the voters will prove,  when I’m re-elected next week.

As he toasts the camera, he spills coffee down his shirt.

MAYOR THOMAS
Damn that’s hot!  Where’s Ma Pop?  I’m going to sue that bitch!

June shakes her head.

FADE TO BLACK:

THE END

 

PinkElephant09image © SHAG

F. E. A. R.

Posted in 2014 NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge on April 2, 2014 by zen4lar

 NYC MIDNIGHT SHORT STORY CONTEST R2/H2 –  2000 WORD LIMIT

 DRAMA – REPORTER – OBSESSION

An elusive musician invites a reporter to tread inside his secret world, praying that what he has struggled to release with art can finally be immortalized in words.

DSC00039

F.E.A.R.

 

“No photographs and no real names,” the girl who called herself Brittle insisted. “And you have to agree to be blindfolded until we get there.”

We were sitting in a dark, noisy club. I had trouble hearing her over Sonic Boom, the artist on stage creating a wave of sound from an array of electronics, wave generators and feedback loops. It wasn’t music for (or even to) everyone, but thankfully Brittle’s boyfriend F.E.A.R. was a huge fan and as I had interviewed Sonic a while back, I was able to get access to this private show, which I offered to Brittle and F.E.A.R. in exchange for a trade.

“Why do I have to be blindfolded?” I yelled.

Brittle looked around nervously. She needn’t have worried; F.E.A.R. was standing at the very edge of the stage, allowing the sounds to wash over him in nearly visible waves. I’ve stood there, I’ve felt it before, and it was sublime, but right now I had other things on my mind.

Brittle leaned in close, nearly shouting into my ear.

“F.E.A.R.’s a very private person, but he says your writing transcends, and so do I. . .”

Her lips brushed my ear and lingered. As a female rock journalist, I’m used to being hit on by both sexes, but I wasn’t interested in a good time, I was out for a story.

I knew little about F.E.A.R., few did, as he was an elusive underground musician of the industrial noise variety–imagine Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music as pop music by comparison–who shunned press like the plague. This would be quite a coup for me.

I turned to face Brittle. “It’s UE isn’t it? I thought their policy was ‘leave only footprints, take only photographs’? So why no pics?”

UE stood for Urban Explorer, a group of adventurers who explore the seamy, decaying, dank and generally off-limit sub-structures of abandoned city constructs all over the world. What Brittle had cryptically described as our ‘little interview adventure’ seemed to fit their scenario.

Fortunately Sonic ended his set just then, so Brittle could answer without yelling.

“We’re not UE. F.E.A.R. makes this trip every year, same fucking day, same fucking place. I have no idea why. Not even sure why he’s allowing you to come.”

F.E.A.R. appeared at our table. With his streaming black hair, black shards of leather and straps and ‘F.E.A.R.’ inked across his forehead–he was not the man most mothers hoped their daughters would bring home. He had date tats on the back of each hand: ‘1945’ on his left and ‘1989’ on his right. His eyes had a tranced out look indicating he had maybe one foot still in this world. Sonic’s music could do that to you.

“Is she in?” F.E.A.R. asked Brittle, not looking at me. Brittle turned to me with questioning eyes. I nodded.

 

***

 

F.E.A.R. drove a flat black VW Microbus. I was blindfolded and seat-belted in. We drove in complete silence for I’m not sure how long. When we arrived it was dead quiet except for crickets and other night sounds.

“Watch your step,” Brittle said as she took my arm and helped me over what felt liked cracked pavement. Although blind, I sensed the enormous weight and sorrow of a towering, empty structure just within arms reach. If I was where I thought I was, it was not a place I had ever wanted to visit. I shivered.

“Duck your head,” Brittle whispered, placing a hand gently on top of my head and pushing down, like a cop helping a perp into a squad car. I crawled through a low, tight hole of cold concrete.

Then I was inside.

Brittle removed my blindfold, and for a moment I had the sudden, inexplicable fear that I had gone blind, so absolute dark was the interior.

A match was struck by F.E.A.R. He lit a black candle off it and handed it to me. He lit two more.

“No flashlights?” I asked.

“No. She bled electricity,” F.E.A.R replied then head off down one of the passages.

I looked to Brittle for some explanation. She shook her head slowly: Don’t ask. She followed him.

     I looked around. The room was a crumbling ode to ancient masonry: hulking walls; heavy ceilings and a suffocating maze of dark passageways. My suspicions were instantly confirmed; we were inside the despicable, hideous Greystone Lunatic Asylum. Built in the early 1900’s, it remained in operation up to a mere thirty years ago, when it was finally abandoned then left to rot.

Shit.

I hurried to catch up with Brittle and F.E.A.R.

 

We passed room after room, catching shadowy glimpses of human residue and hints of a harrowing life: A broken wheelchair on its side beside a tossed, rusty cot; a moldy rag doll missing an arm; a shredded nightgown. . .

“The nights were the worse. They cut the electricity to the wards to save money.” F.E.A.R announced suddenly, not sure to whom.

Brittle took my hand and squeezed. I was beginning to realize that she wanted me here more for support than sex.

F.E.A.R. walked with unwavering, unhurried determination.

We entered a room that had obviously been some sort of administrative office: desks tilted over, broken chairs, scads of damp moldy papers strewn across the floor. I plucked up a crumpled piece. It was from a patient’s file detailing their treatments: Electro-shock, skull drilling, ice cold baths, extended isolation. . .

THUD!

F.E.A.R. let his backpack drop to the floor. He removed a thick, club hammer. It must have weighed at least 3 or 4 pounds. He placed his candle on the floor and blew it out.

Brittle and I remained in the center of the room as F.E.A.R. closed his eyes and walked the perimeter of the room, his right hand sliding lightly across the cracked concrete walls, the hammer dangled heavy in his left. Occasionally his fingers would sink into a hole in the wall, always at about the same height. There was writing above each hole, but I couldn’t make it out.

“The screams didn’t reach this room,” he said softly, matter-of-factly, “they pretended they didn’t exist at all. In here all were safe and cozy and . . .”

He stopped. His fingers brushed a circle over a bare section of wall, reverently.

“Sane.”

Without warning he shifted the hammer to his right hand and delivered three pounding blows to the wall.

BAM! BAM! BAM!

The concrete shattered and fell to the floor in a shower of dust. A gaping black hole remained. F.E.A.R. studied his handiwork, breathing heavy from the exertion. He removed a can of black spray paint and sprayed something above the hole.

“Remember,” he whispered.

 

He put the hammer and paint back inside his backpack, relit his candle then left the room.

I led Brittle to where he had just hammered; she refused to release my hand. Above the hole he had sprayed: F.E.A.R. 11/19/14.

Today’s date.

I glanced down the wall. Each hole had his name and a date above it: same month and day, different non-consecutive year. I counted at least nine other holes, but I couldn’t see the farthest walls.

“Fuck Everything And Run,” Brittle said.

“What?”

“F. E. A. R. We better go there’s still two more rooms.”

 

I could see the shadows cast by F.E.A.R.’s candle rounding a corner. I’m no sissy, but this place was seriously creepy, and I was anxious to catch up. But Brittle knew where he was going, and I could tell she only felt comfortable talking out of his earshot, so I allowed her to set the pace.

“This is my fifth time. It always frightens me. I’m so glad you’re here,” Brittle whispered and kissed my cheek lightly.

“I don’t understand any of this,” I said, ignoring the kiss. “Why does he do this?”

“He won’t say.” Brittle’s eyes were huge in the candlelight. “I hate this next room most.”

 

***

 

A once thickly padded chair with remnants of arm, leg and head straps stood in the center of the room. Everything else had long been stripped out and removed (evident by traces of torn bits of wires and brackets).

F.E.A.R. stood in front of the chair mumbling.

“Who are you? Who are you?” Who are you?” he asked in soft, feminine voice.      It didn’t matter if we were there or not, he wasn’t talking to us.

He removed some items from his backpack then sat in the chair.

“What’s he doing?” I asked, but Brittle had turned away, crying softly. I held her, watching F.E.A.R. in morbid fascination.

F.EA.R. pantomimed attaching the straps to his wrists and ankles, then, leaning his head back against the headrest, attached an imaginary strap across his forehead. He spoke to the darkness, in a patient, nurturing voice.

“This will help you to remember love. To forget what pain is, and sadness . . . and who you ever were.”

He placed what looked like a rubber dog bone in his mouth.

“It is for your own good,” he mumbled through the bone.

He pulled out a pocket taser.

“No!” I screamed. Brittle grabbed my arm and held me back.

He held the taser to his temple and pulled the trigger.

“What the fuck!” I pulled away from Brittle, but by then the shock was over. The taser dropped from his limp hand and his eyes rolled up to white. He slid onto the floor.

“Leave him!” Brittle screamed and rushed to him.

I backed away, only because I saw his eyes pop open. Although dazed, he looked around the room with coherence, his gaze settling on me, tears in his eyes.

“Like waking up adrift on a milky sea. . .” He rubbed the red spot where the taser rested. “They say it is necessary. I say I feel fine. No more, please.” Tears rolled. “No more, please. But they shake their heads.”

Brittle hugged him, crying too.

My nerves were already jangled, my thoughts blackened, so when a rat scurried across my foot I shrieked! “Fuck this, fuck the story, and fuck this place! Fuck everything and run!”

But I didn’t. Neither did they.

I thought I knew what this was all about, but I was wrong.

The true story was yet to unfold.

 

***

 

Room 1151.

Unlike all the other rooms in this damned, fucked-up, sick hole, this one was clean, almost reverend. The walls had been repainted bright white and plastered, the floor swept. The brittle remains of flower corpses were arranged in a row of small vases along one wall.

I knew very little about F.E.A.R., as I had said, but I had no indication that he was a most remarkable artist. His paintings displayed sensitivity and love and devotion and I suddenly understood what Brittle saw pulsing inside him. I understood too how she tolerated his compulsive ritual to this truly god-forsaken place.

His paintings showed a finessed talent manifested throughout the years, although what I took for his earliest may have been my favorite as they were sadder, darker and surely closer to the epicenter of pain.

Brittle and I sat against a wall, holding each other, and watched him place the final brush strokes onto the wall. This one was of a beatific rather than sorrowful nature. The woman, the same tortured soul in each of the dozen or so paintings, looked heavenward, as if released at long last from her Earthly bonds.

As he inserted the new vase of fresh flowers into the center of the row, and bowed his head in silent meditation or prayer, I realized why I was allowed to be here this, his last time.

He did not want her to ever be forgotten.

A legacy of words may often time outlast a photograph, a painting, a song or even a building.

He had finally released her.

Then turned to me.

How could I tell him I was not worthy?

 

East/West

Posted in 2014 NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge on February 19, 2014 by zen4lar

West awoke to blackness.  Not complete blackness, there were stars overhead.  Billions and billions.  West had never seen so many stars, too many stars . . . 

Where am I?

“Is she asleep?”

“We’re joined at the neck, not the brain,” East snapped.

West raised her left arm, the only one she could control, toward the night sky, but they were just out of reach.  Her arm drifted back down to her side as if underwater.   

I am dreaming.

“Her arm rose up,” Dr. Jonathan Taurus-Littrow insisted, confused by the woman’s sudden anger.

“She’s often restless in sleep.  I can’t tell you how many times she’s poked me in the eye, or punched my nose while we slept.”

 

She sensed her sister was with her–she was always in reach but never in sight–so she was not afraid.  West saw through East’s eyes.  The landscape was dusty, dark and barren, illuminated by sporadic, soft white beacons.  She saw what looked like huge, white balloons bouncing lazily across the landscape, lit like fireflies.  They appeared to be herded by a lovely pink angel.

 It was beautiful.

           

“Is it not true that dicephalic parapagus twins share thoughts, at least some forms of rudimentary consciousness?” The doctor asked.

“That’s a myth,” East lied.

 

 I must be in Heaven.

West fell back asleep.

I must be in Heaven . . .” was all East received.  She paled.  “I thought you said that the Neuro-blocker would work for fifteen hours? I’m not prepared for her to wake up early.”

“Yes, yes,” he explained.  “But many things function unpredictably here.”

‘Here’ was the dark side of the moon, more specifically The Fermi Institute for The Obese, an outlaw research institute far from the prying eyes, laws and regulations of that planet below.  Located on the rim of the Fermi Crater, it could not be viewed from Earth and even the occasional satellite crossing would be unable to distinguish it from the surrounding rocks, as it was mostly sub-lunar. One had to be in the know to even know it existed, much less be invited to become a patient.

“Have you had enough site seeing?” Dr. Taurus-Littrow asked.

East spun lazily in her high-bounced arc to face him.  Even here they made a strange sight:  two space-suited figures taking loping bounds across the harsh, dark landscape; one beautiful and slender, with dual bubble helmets; the other, an obese, silvery beach ball of a man, unexpectedly graceful in this element.

“I can’t wait for West to see this.  She loves stars more than anything.  Her greatest wish has always been to see the stars from space, her vision of heaven,” East sighed.

“She’ll see it all, soon enough,” Taurus-Littrow said, glancing at his watch.  “We should get back.” He bounced off.

East waited a moment longer.  She looked to the stars for forgiveness.  She hated tricking her conjoined sister; she loved her with a love that was entangled into her soul, something impossible for separates to understand.  I am doing this for her as much as me! she insisted.

She felt West stir.

What are you dreaming about, dear sister?  Do you have any idea what is about to happen?  Are you excited to be free?  Are you afraid?  Will you still love me? East wondered.

 Neither her sister nor the stars answered.

Dr. Taurus-Littrow eased his bulky frame through the door.  East noticed an unusual amount of massively obese people, dulled and passive, being led through the halls by attendant women in smart pink jumpsuits.

“Who are those people?” she asked.

“Left-Overs,” he replied dismissively. “Your Somas are in B.D. 3.”  They made their way down a warren of passages to a closed, frosted door marked: Birthing Dock 3.  He opened the door.

East was dumbstruck by the sight before her.

A slip of dream-thought from West penetrated her mind.

We are binary stars, linked and forever circling.  We shine and shine and shine . . .

It had been difficult keeping the secret from West.  Circumstance naturally allowed for no privacy, but they had taken a solemn pledge to respect each other’s needs.

West had been naturally curious when she noticed an onslaught of scrambled correspondences from one ‘DRT-L’.

“A secret lover?” She had teased. “Is he handsome?”

“If you must know, it’s a secret for your birthday.  So mind your own business.”

West had laughed her airy, sparkle of a laugh. “Now I’ll have to figure out what to get you.”

“You’re all I need,” East had replied, choking on the enormity of what she was attempting.

Later that night East had injected a neuro-blocker into West as she slept.

Fortunately their vehicle had been specially equipped for either to drive independently­–the perk of being an elite fashion model sensation–allowing her to make her clandestine rendezvous.

The industrial complex had displayed no signage only discreet unit numbers.  East had located 1147, was scanned, verified then allowed in.  She had been met by Dr. Laura Taurus-Littrow, Jonathan’s sister, slim, handsome and warm (all that he was not).  Funds were exchanged, legal waivers signed (most likely unenforceable) and a private rocket secured.

“You are doing the right thing,” Laura had assured her with a hug.  “Your sister will be forever thankful.”

Next she had known, East was slipping from Earth’s gravity.  She slept as the blue planet dwindled below and then awoken on the Moon.

“I want her to see the big picture first,” East said.

“You do know she can’t back out,” Taurus-Littrow added apprehensively.  “We have invested considerable funds in you two.”

“Don’t worry.  I’ve never had any trouble leading her along.”

They were in Hangar C going over the checklist and instructions for the Rover.  It was largely foolproof:  program in the coordinates and then set the autopilot.  East/West climbed in.

“May I ask why you have not chosen a thinner body that would allow you to live on Earth with your sister?” East asked.

Taurus-Littrow sucked his lips as if seeking to taste the correct response.  This was a question most patients eventually asked, and in turn would have to ask themselves.  He had an answer prepared, but it was a lie.

“It was essential that one of us remain permanently here to oversee the operation.  We cannot operate legally on Earth for religious and ethical reasons, and though I cannot be extradited, I cannot ever return to Earth without facing severe consequences.  It was decided that Laura, also obese, would take a Soma replacement, and I would stay here.  Given the lesser gravity, I am quite comfortable here, so I saw no reason to exchange.”

East nodded and as she rolled the Rover out the exit ramp, she realized that she suddenly knew the answer to a puzzle that had plagued a handful of conspiracy theorists, namely:  To where had all the obese suddenly disappeared?

In 2061 the Extreme Consumption Act had been introduced in the World Court making excess consumption illegal, outlawing the amount one could consume in one sitting.  It had become fashionable for the elite to gorge in secret restaurants that trended fast and large, in direct proportion to their clientele.  If one had been found to weigh more than one-and-a-half times their ideal body weight, they would be incarcerated and sentenced to diet and exercise until their ideal weight was achieved.

The elite obese had gone underground, seemingly en-masse.  The World Court had been satisfied.  Earth had continued to spin.  Only a few wondered or had even cared what had become of the obese.

It should have been obvious, East realized, bumping along the uneven surface.  What better place for the obese than on a satellite where no matter how heavy you were, you were only 1/6th of your Earth weight?  Much more than a fat farm, this had become a haven for outlaw genetic experimentation, advanced cloning, Neuro-programming and transference, which was why she and West were here.

Dr. Taurus-Littrow went into a private inner office.  Left-Over Laura, obese, slack-jawed and dimmed, ate ice cream and looked up at him happily.

“Wan’ sum?” she asked through a mouth full of chocolate and whipped cream.

“No, thank you.  You enjoy.”

“Okie-dokie!” She happily went about her business.

‘Left-Overs’ were an occasional, unfortunate side effect of a soma transference.  It was listed in the small print, but few saw it or understood the ramification.  Generally a transfer was complete, but on the rare occasion that some residue of the former self lingered, a Left-Over remained.  It varied from individual, but anywhere from a mere flicker to 60% full retention could exist.  What to do with the Left-Over was an ethical, moral and very personal decision.  On Luna there were no laws to dictate policy, so Dr. Taurus-Littrow left the decision solely up to the individual.  His sister, however, had told him to destroy her Left-Over as it had made her feel creepy.  But Jonathan couldn’t bear to do it.  Knowing Laura would never come back here, and he could never go home, he had lied.

East approached the horizon.  She held the hypo-plunge to West’s neck and slowed the Rover down to a crawl as the light side of the Moon came into view.

West beheld the amazing sight:  a curved line of grey-white surface, scissor-cut by a stark, black horizon.

“Where are we?” she whispered.

“Just watch,” East croaked.  She hadn’t expected the sight to be so profoundly beautiful.  West was the poetic one–the spiritualist–while she was the pragmatic–the ‘get it done girl’–who fearlessly pushed them through all obstacles.

When Earth finally slid into view, their heart stopped.

“Happy Birthday, Sis,” East managed to whisper, but she wasn’t sure West heard as she was too busy ‘aweing’ and ‘ooohing’.

“My God,” West exclaimed, taking her sister’s hand.  She turned her head as much as she could to touch cheeks, their version of a kiss.

They watched Earth spin in silence.

“There’s more,” East announced, feeling like Judas.

“How can there possibly be more?” West sighed, so trusting.

“I don’t understand,” West said upon entering Birthing Dock 3.  “What is this?”

Soma East and Soma West stood side-by-side, identical twins (save one had blue, the other brown eyes) in the soft, glowing light, hands held, no longer joined at the neck.  They were nude, their skin flawless and their hair luxurious; twin shells waiting for their spark of life.

“Imagine two legs of your own to walk or run in any direction.  Or having the freedom to make singular, unshared love . . . To be truly free, truly you and you alone at last?”

“I don’t understand,” West repeated, “Is this what you want?  To be apart from me.  Forever?”

Their blood ran cold, East couldn’t control the feeling.

“No.  No.  We would still be together.  Our bodies would be separate but our heart’s will always be together.”

“Our minds will be transferred to those bodies?”

“Yes.  Aren’t they beautiful?  You can choose, blue eyes or green!”

“What about our souls?” West wondered.

Dr. Taurus-Littrow stepped in, attempting to assuage her fears. “A soma placement is not like a clone.  We ‘map’ your consciousness onto this new version of you, and activate it.  You come alive in this new body with all memories intact.  All you felt, thought, imagined, dreamt will carry along with you.  Your new life will start up just where this one left off, except as two separate beings.”

“And our old body?” West asked.

“It is disposed.  Without a functioning brain the autotomic support systems shut down.” Taurus-Littrow cleared his throat.  “On rare occasions some retention of the host body remains-“

“In English!” West insisted.

“What remains, a Left-Over we call them, may have some slight cognitive abilities.”

“Lovely name,” West replied sarcastic. “What do you do with the Left-Overs?”

“If the Source insists on keeping it alive, it can continue on living a peaceful life here.”

“I don’t understand . . . I would be in two places at once?”

Dr. Taurus-Littrow cleared his throat.  “Well, yes, in a manner of speaking–”

East stepped in. “What’s important is that we could return to Earth and begin living a normal life.  Dr. Taurus-Littrow has created an extensive cover story detailing our fictional operation and plastic surgery.”

“So,” West tried to reason it all out. “I could choose to remain here.  In this body, while you transfer, to that…” she pointed to the Soma East.

“Why would you want that?” East asked, shocked.  “Haven’t you always wished to be apart?  To be normal?  To be whole?”

“I think God made us the way we are for a reason,” West said simply.  “I, we, have had no experience living any other way.  This is normal, this is whole.”

East felt a helpless wave of emotion wash over her. “How can you assume that this is not all part of a divine plan?  What if our destinies are inside those bodies?”

“That may be true,” West conceded.  “But this is all so overwhelming.  Please allow me to meditate on it.” She closed her eyes and went deep inside.

The two Somas stared at her blankly.

“I love you, East,” West said after several minutes, “but I don’t want to risk losing my soul.  I have no other Birthday gift for you, I’ll give you this.  You go ahead.  I’ll stay here as I am.”

East was stunned.

“You want to stay in this body?  Here?  Without me?”

“No!  I don’t ever want to leave you, but I also don’t want to imprison you.  You deserve to be normal.”

“I don’t know that I can do that,” East cried.  “I thought of this as a great adventure we’d experience together.  I never considered . . . “

West pulled East’s head close to her.

“You gave me Heaven, the least I can do is give you Earth.”

East turned toward the doctor, incredulous, tears flowing down her cheek.  “Is that even possible?”

The doctor rubbed his chin, deep in thought.  “I had anticipated this . . .  “

West watched the Earthrise over the horizon.  She came here every day at the same time, just as California was spinning into view below.

“East.  I love you,” she whispered to the detached part of her skimming freely on the planet below.

The part of East that was with her, had eyes perpetually closed in a deep sleep, (for that is how West had to imagine her, always asleep, always dreaming).

If West could have turned her head enough, she would have seen her sister’s lips silently echo her words:  I love you.

eclipse

Temporary Detective

Posted in Promo with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 23, 2013 by zen4lar

 

“Johnny!” she cries,  “I’m at a loss for…”

Spit it out baby”, he slaps her.  “If it’s words you’re looking for read this!”

He shows her a copy of Temporary Detective*. “There’s lots of words inside.”

“Thanks, Johnny,” she smiles, reaching for it.

“Wrong, dollface,” he yanks it back.  “It’s a tough world.  Get your own copy. They’re only a buck and some change!”

“But where-?”

“You’re the detective, follow the clues,” he says as he kisses her hard.

The e-book drops to the floor with a virtual whoosh.

TD cover

*Available at all reputable e-book sellers (and a few iffy ones).

“… a mix of sly wit and traditional mystery while keeping the noir theme as an ever present backdrop and playground for the collection’s sinister underbelly”

– Robert Genta

 

“A hard boiled temporary detective; femme fatales that can crack an egg with just one look and bodies piling up against the streets and gutters of the City of Angels: file this one under noir.”

– LeeAnne Rowe

The Bovine Laugh

Posted in Novel Bits on March 20, 2013 by zen4lar

“Do you like to laugh?” she asks me from the checklist on her clipboard.  What an odd question, I think.  Do I like to laugh?  Is she going to ask me to tell a joke?

 I stare at her.  She stares at me. Her nametag reads:  My Name Is: Carol.  She wears a stern look.  She seems impatient for a response, eager to check this question off her clipboard and move on to the next one.  I realize that speed dating implies a necessity for quick, kneejerk responses, but still…

I know a few jokes that I can repeat off the top of my head.  Actually, I know three.  One concerns a grasshopper named Steve, another a drunk who mistakes a nun for Batman and a third about an unfortunate fellow with a large orange head.

The clock is ticking.  She is waiting.  The pressure is on.

“Yes, I like to laugh,” I say finally.  “But usually at precisely at the wrong time, place or in the most incorrect response.”

“I don’t understand,” she says, annoyed.

“I know,” I laugh.

She makes a slash across her clipboard and rises before the timer dings.  I look down at the blank paper tablecloth in front of me.  I’ve been doodlin’ notes and thoughts on the table.  I have just drawn a rather poorly rendering of a cow standing by a fence munching grass.  Carol is not fat.  Not that I would in anyway refer to a woman as a cow, I respect both and enjoying eating both very much – although in the case of the cow I do feel an increasing guilt but wonder if it’s part of a need for kinship?  An absorption of spiritual energy.  Isn’t it the ultimate appreciation of life?  Does the same go for the need to become as close intimately to a woman, to share fluids and mingle thoughts and emotions?  I don’t know.  I just know I love them both, albeit in different ways.

“Do you want to hear something funny?” I offer.

She wavers a moment, but as there is no other place for her to go for another 7 minutes, she sits.

She nods.

“Why not?”  She checks the more precise timer on her watch.  “I have no place to be for the next 6 minutes and 23 seconds.”

“Okay,” I say.  “Here goes.”

A small boy roams the countryside of France; in the late post WWII 60’s.  Although it’s been twenty something years since the Big One, remnants of the war remain scattered everywhere, on small town streets, in farmer’s fields, on the beaches of Normandy.

The boy is American and French, and as yet to decide which is more real, which matters most.

He encounters an abandoned, forgotten American Sherman tank on the side of the road.  The barrel has been plugged by cement, but otherwise it looks undamaged.  No one is around, and regardless no one cares, so he climbs up on it.  The hatch is rusted open.  He peers inside.  It’s dark and crowded and empty.

Most boys his age and in this time period play at being a soldier.  Toy guns that shoot plastic ammo, plastic helmets, and camouflage gear is all the rage.  There’s even a card game called war, which pits two players against each other, attacking with high cards, losing with low cards.  The general with the most cards at the end is the winner.  I doubt that it’s played much any more, unless there’s an iPhone app for it.

This boy plays soldier a lot.  Sometimes with teams of friends, other times on a solitary, stealth mission like this one.

He climbs inside.

It’s claustrophobic.  A circular room of awkward metallic angles and rudimentary controls.  The tank smells metallic and stale.  There’s a faint lingering odor of urine and cigarettes.  Most of the electronics have been ripped out, the turret  frozen, but the steering levers still move, so the boy is instantly transported to battle.

He makes revving noises and peers out at the countryside, imagining German tanks coming up over that rise.  Never mind that the German Tiger tanks would obliterate his severely under armed and under armored vehicle, in his mind he takes them all on and defeats them with a single shell each.

He cheers to himself a job well done.

He sits in silence for a moment, the sounds of the French countryside’s filtering through the opened hatch and the various viewports.

Suddenly the tank’s claustrophobic energy becomes too much for the boy.   In a flash he shoots up out of the hatch and perches atop the gun, breathing deep.

He surveys the area.

Something catches his eye in the field across the way.  A glimmer of steel, a flash of light in the pasture.  It’s a tranquil pasture, a bit overgrown with lush deep, deep green grass, being munched on by a dozen or so, sleepy looking cows.

The cows are fat and content dairy cows with black and white coats and large brown, peaceful eyes.  They roam the ground slowly, munching and shitting, shitting and munching, adding methane to the atmosphere and milk to our tables.

The boy watches them for a moment, sitting on his tank: potential energy vs. kinetic energy, soft, fleshy life versus hard, metallic death… Not that he made those observations intellectually, he was way too young for that, but he knew this intrinsically, for how else could he recall this feeling some 40+ years later?

“This is a joke?”  My Name Is: Carol asks.

“Wait for it,” I insist.

So the boy watches the cows, and a cow watches the boy, and again there is a glimmer of silvery light on the ground.  He’s intrigued.  He climbs down from the tank and crosses the small two-lane road, climbs down the small gully, then up the small gully and approaches the pasture.

The pasture is half-heartedly enfenced by some askew wooden posts and twin rows of widely spaced small gauge wire, designed to keep highly unmotivated cows from seeking greener pastures when they have more than enough here to keep them content.

cow 2

The boy peers through the fence as a cow, one of the more intellectually intrigued of the species, wanders over to see him.  Her big fuzzy face comes close and she stares at him with mild interest.

There is no threat here.

No farmer in sight, not even a farm house, no bulls, no dogs, just a clean, green pasture dotted with slow moving cows and whatever it is that keeps sparkling in the field, that draws the boy like a magnet.

The boy slips between the wires, pats the passively intrigued cow as he passes and moves quickly towards the metallic object.  It’s in the middle of the field, but it’s not that large of a pasture so it only takes him a minute and a half to find it.

Half trampled in the soggy ground, cow prints all around, but somehow miraculously exposed, is the silver and bone handle of an authentic, German WWII Teno dagger.  The boy pulls it out of the ground in awe.  It’s scimitar shaped, a swastika emblem on the hilt and some kind of circular markings on the handle.  The pounded metallic blade is dull, but it looks dangerous as hell.

An amazing find!

The boy can’t wait to show his brother and friends!  He rushes back out the pasture, tracing his footsteps, pats the cow absently as he climbs back out through the wires and races home.

The next day he stands at the same fence, this time with a friend.  His friend, Petey, holds what appears to be an authentic French Foreign Legion hat that he found (but in actuality is most likely a gendarme’s hat.).

“Is that where you found it?” Petey asks.

“Oui,” the boy says.  “In that field.  Right there!”  He points.

The inquisitive cow from yesterday looks up from her munching.  She seems to recognize the boy.  She looks at him for a long moment, chewing thoughtfully.

“It was just lying on the ground.  I saw it from the tank over there.” The two boys look across the road, where the tank waits patiently for another battle.

“Wow!”  Petey says.  “I’ll trade you for this authentic French Foreign Legion hat!”

“I don’t know…” says the boy.  “Let me see it.”

“Okay, but let me hold the dagger.”  The boy agrees, and they trade treasures.

The boy tries on the hat.  It’s way, way too big, dropping down over his eyes.  He tilts it back to see.  The cow, meanwhile, has decided to see her new friend.  She lumbers toward the boys.

Petey admires the dagger.  “Boy, oh boy.  This is so cool!  Do you want to trade?”

“I don’t know…” The boy says, still wearing the over-sized hat.  “Maybe’s there’s another dagger out there.
“Yeah?  Let’s go look!” Petey agrees!

They both turn to look over the pasture.  Each with one hand ready to part the wire and slip through.  Each ready to race across the pasture in search of treasure…

When the cow, still munching contently, still lumbering like a small ship towards them …suddenly blows up.

The boys are stunned.

She was a cow a second before, now she’s an exploded mess, the victim of a latent landmine.

The boys stare on in disbelief and horror, their hands clinging to the wire fence.  Then they look at each other, bodies shaking uncontrollably.  They can’t speak, but in silent acknowledgement they turn and run to their separate homes: Petey clings tight to his dagger, the other boy’s hand firmly on head, holding down his over-sized French Foreign Legion hat.  By some unspoken bond, neither boy told his parents, or anyone and neither spoke of the incident again.  The boy kept the Foreign Legion hat, Petey kept the dagger.

“I think Petey got the better deal,” I concluded.

Carol stared at me in silent derision.  Her timer went off with a shrill jingle, startling her.  She rose quickly.  “You have absolutely  no sense of humor.  That wasn’t funny at all.”

“I didn’t mean funny ‘Ha-ha’.  I meant funny strange…”

She moved away quickly, making a strong strikeout on her form, then slid into the seat of the guy at the table next to me.  His name tag read: JOB.

While I waited for the next woman I tried to think of something funny ‘Ha-ha.’

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