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The Epoch of a Reporter #flashfiction

300 words
News Reporter; Newsroom; Steampunk


There’s a constant clacking from Cindy O’Toole’s typer in the other room, followed by the hiss and clang of the carriage setting back in place. A haze of smoke sits in the newsroom like a cloud of sulphur from the cigs in everyone’s mouth. We all puff endlessly.
It is otherwise silent – even Ben Johnson from the funnies has no quips to the rolling film that plays on the wall behind Editor Ken Dunham. Dunham’s bulky arms, usually crossed, hang by his sides in defeat.
As the film flickers to an end, he swivels to us, skin sicky pale.
“That’s… that’s all we have.” He says, tired eyes falling on each of us with the languidness of a dying ticker. “Who wants to report it?”
We sit silent. Glances are diverted to feet, blank notepads or the wall peppered with past editions of trivial occurrences here in New Melwell. Nothing this big.
“No one?” Dunham asks, before letting out a long sigh that billows smoke from the almost smouldered smoke in his mouth. He pulls it out and stabs it into the tray on the table.
Silence.
“I will.” I finally say, and there’s an almost audible relief across the newsroom.
“Davis. You sure you’re up for it? This… this is some bad shit for a greeny.”
I shrug. “Ain’t nobody signing up so…”
Dunham thinks for a moment, scans the room and sees no one coming to my rescue. He snaps the film from the tripod and slides it across the table.
“Detective John Falon is the guy to talk to.”
I nod. I know.
It had taken a while for my murders to be big enough for the newsroom. Now I could cover my own story while keeping abreast of the city bobby.
I hid my smile.


 

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#FlashFiction: Fees and Bodies Must Fall

“Fees and Bodies Must Fall” was my entry for Microcosms Fic for this past Friday. The prompt was:

(Gonzo) Journalist / House Party / Crime


You would think the blood spatter, taste of copper, and underlying stench of faecal matter would ward me and the others off 17 Mahogany Drive that hot July afternoon. It wouldn’t. Journalists are the curious type and like the proverbial cat, death is part of the gig. Confetti is still strewn about the leather couch, right next to a Ms. Davidson, 22, student at the University of Johannesburg. We look over the shoulders of a police squadron on site led by a Constable Gumede who is all frowns and glares.

“This isn’t a puppet show,” he growls. But we know it is. And not because we can see the threads of bed sheets hanging off the balcony, angling Ms Davidson across the couch like a modern-day Death of Marat. It’s because we know the M.O. That this is the third victim in the repertoire of a man we journos have affectionately labelled The Neoclassic Killer. Just the previous month, a house party in the pseudo-glitzy Parktown area revealed students from Wits University arranged as The Death of Socrates. Bed sheets and all.

It’s difficult to remain objective when faced with the surrealism that our city has a serial killer. The fear radiating through our bones. Poisoning our hearts. Lining our street poles with headlines screaming murder at each corner. Yet we must remain objective so we may assess the situation without emotion. To notice that the killer targets these students not based on any merit of their own but the continuous protests sweeping our streets; Fees Must Fall – which Ms Davidson led as an advocate of.

I am not a prophet, it’s not in my job title, but as more pledges rise, I wouldn’t be surprised if the next classic we see, is The Oath of The Horatii. And death.

Submitting the Perfect Story

The year begins with a bang and there’s been much afoot since the clock turned the calendar over from 2017 to 2018. I’ll be meeting Nicky of Chasing Dreams Publishing this Saturday to work on getting my own novella published. What I hope to be a psychological thriller horror based on a short story I’m working on.

This particular short story is an idea I want to submit to FlashBack Fiction by the end of this week. The foundation for what is to come. The problem is that I keep running into the same wall every time I get to that 500 word limit; I find the story… boring.


The Perfect Story

I sit at my desk and let the mind begin its usual marathon run through visuals and ideas until it latches upon a man in a high collar shirt, white, and sleeves rolled to the elbows. Perfectly tousled hair whips in the soft breeze as he walks through a bustling street filled with dames in flouncing dress and lace parasols. The men tip hats, lips curling up with their carefully trimmed mustaches. Others ride by nonchalant on bicycles with empty baskets leading the way. Many park against intermittent trees lining the paved walkways where cafes and curious shops have opened for the morning. Woven chairs are arranged around square tables draped in cloth, adorned with cutlery and obscure vases from the local artisans. Coffee. Bacon. Toast. Their scents fill the warm air. Accompanying the scent is the rustle of leaves from the nearby trees. The crinkle of newspaper as a man in a bowler hat turns his copy of Die Zeit. Tranquil. Peaceful. Happy.

It contrasts the thoughts swirling through my protagonist who watches with a careful smile hiding his darkest thoughts. The satchel at his waist portrays him as an artisan though none know of his particular work. Of the “museum” that awaits him in the bricked apartments right above the supposed serenity the scene in front of him plays. He knows behind the coiffed styles of both the men and woman, behind their rosy cheeks and wide smiles and oiled beards lie secrets. Fears. Worries. Dark thoughts. They aren’t that much different from him. Not much at all.

And this is where I begin my story. The above description is a cut scene from my mind and now we step into the protagonist’s shoes as the writing begins.

Only from here, as I try to slip the darkness into the serenity, I find the pacing too slow or too fast. The transition too drastic or not drastic enough. I’m failing to find the balance between writing style and effect. To add that gut-wrenching punch drawing breath from lungs as you wail “No!” in horror and squirm where you sit, glancing behind you as paranoia sweeps along your spine in cold tendrils.

That. That is what my perfect story would be. But I’m struggling here. Anyway let me get to writing the new draft and see if I can craft the perfect story so I can submit it. *Sighs

Friday Fiction: The Best Gift

Prompt comes courtesy of my good friend and fellow author/blogger, Rachel Poli:

Write about a character who gets something special they’ve always wanted.

The Best Gift

Words: 596


The idea of a Secret Santa may as well be as old as the very concept of merry ol’ St. Nicholas. St. Dominic’s Primary School became the haven of such a tradition in its truest form since the school’s conception in 1895, when Sister Ignatius placed square, brown-paper packages within the 85 desks of her students prior the last day of school. The following day was followed by a chorus of joyous squeals as boys and girls ripped through paper and tape to find within the objects of their uttermost desire. The best gift.

As tradition wore on through the years, even when money seemed hard to come by, there happened to be one particular child with an almost unattainable desire. One that could not be wrapped save for in prayer. Furtive supplications cast to the Almighty in hopes of repairing broken families, sick fathers and mothers, dying brothers and sisters, and on more than enough occasion, for death’s repeal.

Where these gifts could not be attained, it was their next appealed desire wrapped and placed with the more modern school desks. The School Governing Body, with now over 300 students within the expanded bricked building, would question how such a tradition could be continued, and as with every Principal that had followed Sister Ignatius’ example would proclaim to those who questioned the gifts,

“The Lord provides.”

And truly, each year, He did.

As corporate and government and school slowly intertwined with the passing of time, and the education system turned into a business venture rather than a place of tutelage, the nuns of previous generations were replaced with CEOs and businessmen toting degrees and masters in Business Management. They did not, however, truly possess the spiritual depth and leadership of their predecessors. And yet, despite all of this, every year, the students of St. Dominic’s Primary School, received their annual gifts out of miraculous providence.

In the year 1995, on the last day of school following the newly elected Principal, as the muted excitement, and muffled bubbles of laughter echoed across the span of the school, there came a single ear-splitting scream. The school fell into utter silence. As though the wind itself had ceased to exist, the trees shaken to quiet, and the hum of traffic come to a standstill. Hairs on napes rose. Flowing blood seemingly turned to ice and coursed through each student and teacher alike as a virus through a body.

Young Francis had opened his package with frenzied anticipation, his particular gift sizable in comparison to his peers, and decidedly oddly shaped in almost rotund oblong contours. As the paper ripped between his fingers, he was struck by an odd smell. One that reminded him of his lunch tin when he had left it in the playground for a week and opened the lid to find the festering green and white mould growing within. Only this smell seemed different. There was also a sticky liquid trailing along the inside and staining his palms scarlet. By now the entire classroom had turned to see what he’d received. Curiousity emblazoned on rapt young eyes, lips parting in awe and wonder. At last Francis ripped the entire wrapping off, arms rising as expanded energy threw them upwards. For a moment he could only stare at the thing rolling out from the paper to stare up at him with glazed eye sockets and a gaping abyss marking misshapen ebony dentures. Only he couldn’t deny the jade green orbs gazing past and through him. For there sitting on his desk… was the head of his father.


Word to the wise: Don’t read The King in Yellow, and expect your mind to remain the same. See the true face of horror.

Friday Fiction: The Dance of Death

Prompt courtesy of Chasing Dreams Publishing – Monday Writing Prompt

Prompt: They danced through the stars

Word Limit: 250 words


They danced through the stars. Moonlit wisps coiling through vast expanse as amber-scarlet flares belched stagnant pale tendrils into the gaping abyss.

“Engine failure. Engine Failure” Droned the monotony of the ship’s A.I.

Red blossomed across the deck in incessant flashes as wailing sirens echoed off the walls. The control panel shimmered with lights, illuminating the captain’s chair and halo of gold-red-gold tresses pressed against cheek and forehead, the captain sweating against pulsing lights.

“Estimated crash time?” She asked quietly into the attached headset.

“At this rate I’d say a steady seventeen minutes and… about 23 seconds. Unless you get some balancé Cap.” The voice replied with just a hint of smile in its gruffness.

“Just keep those cannons ready.” The captain replied, a ghost of smile touching her lips.

“Better bring this crash-ballet to its finale.”

As though summoned by the remark, the emptiness of space shimmered in colossal prism-tinged glare. Then they were wholly and completely surrounded.

Allegro, captain. Allegro.”

Trails of fire followed the diving ship as streaks of light boomed from the surrounding angular prisms of enemy forces. With as much elegance and grace a blazing ship could afford, the captain pirouetted through interminable fire,

“Fouetté!”

The ship spiralled, cannon extending outwards in explosive bursts of successive fire, tucking in to reload and extend once more for a repeat performance.

“Inbound photon torpedo.” A.I notified them. Hands and hearts froze. Silence pervaded.

“It’s been a pleasure dancing with you Cap.”

“Always Jarvis.” Tears trickling down, “Always.”


 

Blogger Prompt Chain

I was tagged by my good friend, and fellow writer/blogger/gamer (and all round awesome) Rachel Poli to do a Blogger Prompt Chain. It was created by A.J. Alexander – you should visit her blog too. The idea is to create a “chain” of stories written by writers and bloggers across the blog-o-sphere.

Since I didn’t have a post for today, and Rachel so kindly invited me to participate, I thought, why not.

But first…
Hipster Ariel I Don't Do Challenges

The Rules:

  1. Pick one of the five given writing prompts (picked from Rachel’s blog – link above)
  2. Set up the Blogger Prompt Chain banner and publish your story under the banner.
  3. After your story, continue the chain by forwarding an invitation to five bloggers or writers. (In case a writer doesn’t have a blog, guest posts can be offered)
  4. Don’t forget to link the writers to your blog and back to the one who invited you.
  5. Publish the five writing prompts and rules!

The Prompts

The End of The Bucket List
Write a story about a character who finds out that he or she is dying and has been knocking things off his/her bucket list and has finally reached the last item.

Get Out of the Car With Your Hands Up
You’re driving to your favorite city when you’re stopped by a police officer. Sure, you were going a few miles over the speed limit, so you’re not overly surprised. But you are surprised when the police officer gets to your car and screams, “Get out of your car with your hands up!” This leads to an unexpected night for you. Write this scene.

Hiring a New Villain
Your old villain quit over creative differences, so you’ve put yourself in charge of hiring a new villain for your novel. What questions do you ask? What does the new villain’s resume say? Write this scene as if it were a job interview.

At The End of The Rainbow
You and a friend have decided to try and follow a rainbow to see if the end holds a pot of gold. But when you finally reach the end, you find something much more valuable than a pot of gold—and it changes your life. Write this scene.

The Letter All Writers Should Write
Write a letter to a person who supported your writing career, whether that be a friend, a family member, a teacher (even one that supported you at a very young age before you knew that it would blossom into a writing career), an author you’ve never met but have been inspired by his or her writing. Do you thank them? Do you blame them? Take the letter in any direction you want.

My Choice: At The End of The Rainbow

“You know, scientifically, we can never reach the end of a rainbow. You know this right? Right.” Chae says, pushing his glasses up his nose.

“No science today buddy, only faith.” I reply. Chae shakes his head.  Dried grass crunches under our feet, the sun a welcome sight parting what little clouds remain. A rainbow, clear as day and completely translucent, arches perfectly ahead of us.

“I’m all sweaty. Not even five minutes and it’s searing hot.” Chae says. “That humidity.”

“It will be worth it. Trust me.” I say. In my pocket is a piece of concrete slab. Etched into it hours before, as the rain poured down around me, is an ancient symbol. One that grants access to a rainbow. A perfectly arched rainbow.

“I do trust you. That’s the problem.” Chae says, squinting against the sun. The rainbow seems to recede with every step we take.

“I’ve been waiting a long time for this. Faith won’t fail me today.” I say, running my fingers along the sharpened grooves.

“Faith isn’t going to solidify a rainbohmygosh.”

The rainbow, which was seemingly far, and fading quickly, is suddenly a solid, hued path dropping right at our feet from nothing. It expands forward ahead of us in a path wide enough for a car.

“Impossible!” Chae says, taking off his glasses to wipe them. As though the smudges and dust creates the vision before us. Only we both know its real.

“Faith my friend.” I say, feeling a smile tug at my lips, “Let’s see where the rainbow-brick road leads.”

We step onto the path and immediately a cold shiver runs through me. I turn to Chae to find he has paled considerably.

“No.” Chae whispers, “No. No. No. No. Somethings wrong. Something is very wrong!” His voice screeches.

“No man, it’s perfectly okay.” I say although the pounding in my chest says otherwise. I know it’s not okay at all. However, if we have reached the end of the rainbow then there must be some nugget of truth to the whole pot of gold myth. If only the sudden menacing presence around us wasn’t so strong.

“Do you notice something weird?” Chae asks. His eyes cast about the veld that stretches out around us. I notice it then.

“The world looks transparent.”

“I think we should turn back. I really think we should turn back.”

Chae begins to whirl around but something glints just ahead of us. I grab his arm and whirl him around.

“Look!”

“We cannot continue along this… this fantasy!” He yells without looking ahead.

“We found it Chae!” He stops long enough to look, then he runs.”

“Dude! Wait what if…” But he’s already reaching whatever it is ahead of us. I go after him, seeing that it’s not a pot of gold after all.

“It’s…”

“A book?”

Chae lifts it up. The cover is pure gold, yet bends and flexes easily. He casually turns the blank pages.

“Well that was a waste of time.” He says, shutting the book with a snap.

“Maybe if we write in it, whatever we write will come to life.”

“That’s just stupid.” He adjusts his glasses, dusts his pants before pulling out a tiny clutch pencil from his back pocket.

“I thought it was stupid.” I say with a grin.

Chae shrugs,

“So is finding a gold-bound book at the end of a rainbow.”

We put it down and I take the pencil from Chae.

“Don’t write anything stupid.”

“Shut up.” I laugh. Thinking. Then I have an idea,

We turn around and there’s a pot of gold.

“That’s really stupid.” Chae says, but he turns around. “Oh no…”

I look up from the page and follow his gaze. There’s a pot of gold alright. A pot made of gold. I sigh.

“I guess we need to be more specific.”

“I wasn’t “oh no-ing” about the pot…” Chae says. I look beyond the path and feel my stomach drop. Shadows rise up around us in coils of smoke. They block the path back but worse than that, they each hold similar books. They begin to shamble towards us. Chae clutches his chest like he’s having a heart-attack. I look at the book in my hand, at Chae and at the shadows. An idea pops up.

“As the figures draw closer, they part long enough for us to run through. We escape unscathed.”

Only the words begin to twist on the page, and words vanish and reform.

“As the figures draw closer, Chae sacrifices himself, parting them long enough for me to run through. I escape unscathed.”

“Wait no!” I scream at the book.

“Run!” Chae says. I look up to find him launching himself at the closest shadows, who part long enough to create a path. My feet suddenly move on their own.

“No!” I scream as my body jolts itself forward and runs. My arms reach for Chae but he’s too far.

“Chae!!”

But the figures clutch him tightly and I am propelled off the rainbow-path and into the heat. I turn around, only to find the rainbow has faded into the distance.

“Chae!”


I Invite:

  1. Carin Marais
  2. Nicky – Chasing Dreams
  3. Jen – Fictional Jenn (Where’s your site JEN!)
  4. Kelly Griffiths
  5. Tyron “Odly Otter” Armstrong

You don’t want to participate but it would be amazing if you did. If you do, please leave a link to your story!

 

 

Friday Fiction: The Playground


The four fundamental elements I spoke about in Genre Writing: Horror Fundamentals are: Atmosphere. Fear Factor. Character Flaw. Plot Twist.

The sunlit jungle gyms and slides were half obscured by uniformed, screaming children. They scampered about like mice, eyes alive, front teeth missing, dirt and dust over their shorts and skirts and shirts and knee length socks. One of them, on his way down the scorching, silver pole leading to the graveled floor, looked across the playground. Three of the fourth graders were leading a second grader towards Big School. They weren’t allowed there during school hours. Not at all.

He slid down quickly and started to follow,

“Where you going Ted?” Leena asked. Ted shot her a dark look, index finger rising to his lips,

“I’m coming now.” Ted whispered, turning to see the other kids slip through the side gate.

Ted ran as quickly and quietly as he could. Were they trying to get the second grader in trouble, his mind asked. Was the kid in trouble? Why was he following them at all?

As he peeked around the corner, he felt the hairs on the nape of his neck rise. They weren’t going to the Big School after all. They were heading to the disused toilets in the back corner of the old classrooms. A bricked wall separated the two halves of the school, which had cut off the toilets from being seen. Since no one used it, there were no lights inside, and to enter you had to walk through a small corridor. All in total darkness.

Ted shivered.

Sometimes, he and his friends would dare each other to run past. Once he’d dared his friend Johnny to knock on the door. Johnny did. A moment later he’d ran out crying, claiming he’d seen massive red eyes staring at him. They never did go back.

Ted wouldn’t have followed these kids today. Not since that day with Johnny. In fact, not ever. But what if the kid was going to get fed to that red-eyed thing Johnny saw. What if the fourth graders didn’t know? What if they did know?

He thought about calling a teacher but it was already too late. They were approaching the corridor and he could hear the older boy’s snicker. The other kid was crying. But what could he really do? He didn’t know but when all the kids stepped into the corridor, Ted hurried after them.

The entrance was dark. Just a rectangular wall of black. Ted had never seen the sun shine on this side of the building. From inside he could hear whispers, and the younger boy’s sobbing. Someone told him to shut up or they’d leave him inside. Then it went eerily quiet. As though all sound had been cut off from inside.

Ted waited at edge of the corridor, leaning in to hear better. He thought he could hear shuffling. Or maybe mumbling. He wasn’t sure.

Then someone screamed and all the blood drained from his veins and filled up with liquid ice. He stood frozen. Another scream jerked him backwards against the wall. He couldn’t see or feel the shivers that took over his body. He stared at the darkness and he felt it stare back at him.

Then two red eyes blinked open. Ted screamed. His body came back to life and he pushed away from the wall to run. A warm hand gripped his calf. He screamed again.

“Ted! Ted!” He turned around and it was the second grader. He was okay. Ted fought to calm down but then he saw the streaks of red on the kid’s arm.

“What… what happened?”

The kid smiled, revealing more of the red on his teeth.

“Well… we won’t be having a bullying problem anymore.”

Did you pick up the four elements inside the story? What basics do you use to craft your story?

Friday Fiction: Hope

Earlier this week in my new segment, Genre Writing, I touched on two fundamental elements I use when writing a story. Today you get to read a short story based on these two elements. They are: Emotion, and Idea. Read the blog post to get the full explanation yeah? For those who have already, (or skipped reading it, it’s cool don’t worry) enjoy!

*

Fundamentals: Idea – Image Prompt. Emotion – Sadness

Words: 385

None can fathom the depth of his sadness. Below the expanse of heaven, his people move about with self-righteous nonchalance. They harvest from fields with praise only to their hands and tools. They forget that the rain they depend on comes not from their efforts. The soil they churn has been there before them. The seeds they plant borne from the land they did not create. They craft their own god and call him science, technology, human advancement and other names. Had they forgotten him so quickly?

He descends from his throne to an unknown island where he dons the garb of a simple fisherman. Here his creations thrive. Two gargantuan trees, capped by thick foliage, lilt towards the dark waters like tired sentries. Their smaller brethren once sprouted across the land. Now bricked buildings stand in their way and a different breed thrives.

“Good evening sir.” A silhouette says. It’s attire is as dark as the sky. Crisp. Clean. Over the heart is a golden pin that reads Greg – Manager.

“Good evening to you.” He says to Greg the Manager.

“I didn’t know the fishermen were still working tonight.” Greg says. His eyes turn towards the waters where there are lights in the distance. No boats bob between.

“I was merely visiting.” He says. Greg smiles.

“No worries. Do you need a place to stay for the evening? We’re fully booked but I’m sure I can find a place for you just for the night.”

“I am a mere fisherman. I cannot afford this place.”

“Don’t worry about that sir. Also, I noticed there aren’t any boats left. How are you going to head home?”

The man turns towards the waters, then back at Greg.

“Are you sure?”

Greg turns to the water and sure enough a dinghy sits against the shore.

“What in heaven’s name…”

“Anyway Greg, thank you for your kindness this evening. You have given me some hope yet.”

“Hope for what?”

“Humanity.” Greg is still staring at the dinghy but when he turns to the man, he is no longer a fisherman. His robes glow gold and flow to the floor.

The man points to the sky. The clouds flare with light the colour of dusk, as flames of jagged lightning break across the sky. Then he is gone.


Hope you enjoyed this little tale. May you have a grand weekend ahead!

 

 

Friday Fiction: Regrets

 

“There is no black and white when it comes to stalking. You’re either doing it or not doing it.” Haley said. She leaned over my shoulder. Her scent filled the air.

“It’s Instagram though.”

“Right. Legalized stalking but it’s still stalking.”

I swiped through the images then stopped. The image was of my stalkee – Jordan Washington. She’d tilted her head just enough to let the black braids hang down one side of her face onto the picnic table. Sunlight dulled against her face enough that it made her skin almost golden brown. And she had a pretty face.

“You see that don’t you?” I asked Haley. I could hear the grin in her voice,

“She’s definitely pretty.”

I pinched my fingers together against the screen and slowly pulled them apart. Zooming in past her shoulder to the tree in the distance. I kept my fingers from shaking and ignored the hairs on my nape rising.

“You see that though?”

“No I… oh…” Haley’s hand gripped my shoulder tight. “Dude!”

“I know. Hold on check.” I swiped through a couple more images, zooming into key areas just beyond Jordan’s smiling face. One of these was in her bedroom and the mirror behind her reflected the open window.

“Tyrone.”

“Yeah?”

“That’s you isn’t it?”

“Yes and no. Either I have an evil twin brother, an evil clone… or someone out there is pretending to be me.”

Haley’s hand gripped tighter.

“Or some-thing.”

*

Jordan Washington. That’s where it begins. That’s. Where. It. Begins. Begins. Ends. There is no… there is no time and there is all the time. All. The. Time.

I am. I am not ready to lose her. Not again. Not when I must. I must…  Must find. Must find Jordan. Must. Save. Her.

*

Jordan lay under the covers with her phone shaking between her hands. She hadn’t logged in to Instagram in months yet new photos kept posting themselves on her feed. Each of them with his figure in the back. The wooden floorboards creaked. An invisible weight pushing against her chest, squeezing her lungs together. Her breath came out short and shallow and she fought to keep it quiet. From beyond the blanket she sensed a shadow. Like cold hands pressing down her shoulders, grazing her spine from neck to lower back. A single harried breath echoed across her room, freezing her on the spot. Her hands were shaking so bad the phone fell out and hit the bed.

“GET OUT TYRONE!” She screamed, throwing the blankets off and sitting up quickly. The room was empty. Silent. She swiveled her head around thinking she might see him and hoping she wouldn’t. Nothing.

“I need to get out of here.” She whispered into the air, hands running through her hair. She’d already bought her train ticket and couldn’t wait for morning. Whatever game Tyrone was playing she couldn’t take it anymore. She slipped under the cover and picked up the phone to see the time.

Her breath caught in her throat for a second before a scream escaped her lips. The screen was filled with Tyrone’s face, haggard and drooping. Two words were emblazoned across the image.

“I’m. Coming.”

*

Fog sat across the horizon like a blanket, cloaking the street enough that we could barely see what was ahead of us.

“Put on the fog lights.” Haley said.

“I did. It’s not working.”

“Well then drive faster! Or… do something!” She sat forward on the passenger seat. Her hand angled away from her lips as teeth chewed through fingernails. She’d been like this since I picked her up five minutes ago. Outside, the morning fog continued its endless descent.

“If we get into an accident then it will all be for naught.”

Haley shook her head,

“If we don’t get there quickly it may be too late.”

I sat closer to the steering wheel and peered through the fog. I knew the road well enough but even in that fog it was difficult to anticipate anything. Eventually we saw the off-ramp we had to take, and the green sign above us.

Lincoln Station

It was still early enough that we had ample parking space, but there was still some life. A woman hauling out a large travel bag. Business men in suits chatting on phones. Children clinging to parents. All of them swaddled in heavy clothing. It was unceremoniously cold.

“Dude just park anywhere.”

“Chill!”

“I can’t chill! You saw that last post this morning right? That Tyrone-Clone keeps getting closer with each pic and this time it was literally standing over her. By her bed!”

“Why can’t she see it though? Or feel him? Or something!”

Haley shrugged, then chewed another nail, gazing off towards the train tracks in the distance.

“Maybe she does.”

I found a space and we jumped out of the car, racing towards the open platform where a small group had already formed. I could see the faces of those around us watching with raised brows, upturned lips or rolling eyes.

“I can’t see her.” Haley called from the other side of the crowd. I walked to the edge of the platform to see better. I would have thought in such a small group she would be easy to see. The sound of the train approaching rumbled the tracks. I turned towards it, squinting through the fog.

I saw her. On the platform ahead of us. Just a dark silhouette walking slowly away but it was her alright.

“Found her!” I shouted but Haley didn’t respond. Maybe she’d gone into the building to find her. It didn’t matter. I rushed towards her, past the little white barriers that looked like tombstones. The fog was dissipating enough that I could make out the roofs of houses from across the tracks.

“Jordan!” I screamed. The figure didn’t turn around. I ran towards it quickly, feelings my fingers and toes growing numb in the cold. My breath puffed out in clouds.

“Jordan!” She whirled about quickly to face me, her eyes wide and mouth agape.

“No!” She ran. I chased.

“He’s coming!” I screamed at her, following.

“Get away!”

The tracks grumbled louder. A horn blared. A headlight cut through the fog.

“Jordan!”

She tripped. The world seemed to slow down as I watched her arms waving in an effort to balance herself. Her foot twisted. She leaned a little too close to the edge. Then she was falling. Onto the tracks. A screeching sound resounded as the train attempted to brake.

“JORDAN!”

*

The fog swirled around me like a cold hand. A silhouette appeared from it. Tall. Dark. Eyes like egg-yolks and yellowing teeth as sharp as knives.

“You messed up again Tyron. Man. How many times do you gotta do this?”

“Jordan.” The words escaped in a sigh. Everything turned blurry as tears filled my eyes.

“Yeah, yeah. Jordan this. Jordan that. You wanna save her? Again?”

My head shot up and I gazed at this…person.

“Yes.” I said.

“Good. This is going to hurt… again.”

*

“There is no black and white when it comes to stalking. You’re either doing it or not doing it.” Haley said. She leaned over my shoulder. Her scent filled the air.

“It’s Instagram though.”

“Right. Legalized stalking but it’s still stalking.”

 

Friday Fiction: Puddles

Image courtesy of Michael Gaida – Pixabay

Puddles. They form around us slowly with little to no regard to them. After all we are too focused on their initial form pelting us from above while at our feet they swarm together. Coalesce.

“I don’t understand why you have to leave so often.” Her umbrella is a burst of sunshine on an otherwise rainy Tuesday morning. She drapes it over her shoulder so that it fans around her slick hair like a halo. As stressed as I am, and as upset as she is, I cannot help but marvel at her.

“I explained it to you already Aly.” I say. Rather, I plead. Cold droplets sink into my skull like ice.

“The boss needs me is not a suitable excuse Jer.”

“Yeah I know but…”

“But nothing.” She tucks black strands behind her ear. For a moment the spider tattoo flashes on her dark skin then it’s gone.

“I promise I’ll make it up to you.”

She sighs. Both hands clutch the handle of the umbrella and her body twists at an angle. It’s her ‘I’m thinking’ posture. It’s her ‘I haven’t decided’ posture. It’s one she never has on the field. Not that she knows I know.

“Emiliano’s. Seven PM sharp. Or we’re done.” She says. I smile. Her lips twitch but she holds it in.

“Emiliano’s it is. I’m really sorry babe.”

Her lips pout but the dark eyes are smiling. With a whirl she’s slipped through the droplets and for a moment only a shape in the suspended raindrops is evidence of her existence. Then they crash to the floor and become part of the growing puddle.

*

The agency is a maze of business suits, college frat boys in plaid shirts and short shorts, and the sloppy rag-tag team of programmers donning comfort-style attire. One of the Slops is shuffling beside me with his rooted iPhone running an Android OS.

“Alyssa is gonna get you killed Jer.”

“If she doesn’t kill me first.”

“She could. She’s an…” the Slop leans his head towards me, “An Aranea.”

“Tell the whole world why don’t you.”

“Aw man the whole agency knows. You know they know. Don’t understand the secret.”

I turn to the Slop. He’s blonde hair is cut like one of those famous boy bands from the 90’s but his semi-beard ages him to guitar playing bard. Like that guy from Passenger.

“It’s not so much a secret as a taboo-subject. Like how we all suspect the fries of a particular fast-food franchise but never mention it.” Slop from Passenger nods his head sagely.

“I hear she’s on your recon list. That’s some taboo betrayal right there.”

For a moment there’s a surge of cold that hits my chest. And then it’s gone.

“Her ability is unique.” And so is her face I muse, “If we can pass that on to our future kids, it won’t matter that she’s Aranea. Because family always wins.”

“Just gotta watch the TV to know that.”

“Totally.”

*

It’s 6 PM when I arrive at Emiliano’s. A velvet rope separate the chumps from the high-end chumps. For tonight, I’m a high-paying chump. The rain has abated but fine sheets of it plonk down gently. Caressing the quiet lamp-lit streets and passing pedestrians.

“Did you ever wonder if the person in the puddle is real, and you’re just a reflection of him?”

Alyssa is beside me as though she’s always been there. Only the dryness of her trench coat gives it away. Her head is cast down to a reflection of our murky silhouettes on the street. There is no shape to the puddle.

“Then we’re both reflections with that kind of logic.” I slide up next to her. The umbrella hangs at her side unopened. She doesn’t need it.

“That’s so like you.” She says softly, “Missing the depth. Quick to try sussing out the logic.”

“Well I…”

“Sometimes I wish I were the reflection, you know.” I realise then she hasn’t looked at me. I step to her and she’s suddenly facing the opposite direction. “Reflections never have to feel.”

When she turns to me, her eyes are puddles. They do not seep. Or flood. They merely… coalesce.

“Tell the agency I said hi.”

And then she was gone. Her silhouette shaped the air for a moment. Even her tears. Then they washed my feet in a cold splash, forming puddles.


Happy Friday all! Hope you enjoyed my  story. Good luck on your writing fellow authors and hope you have a great weekend!

Lorraine Ambers

Writer & Queen of Daydreams

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