Archive for: November, 2013

“Mrs. Triton” by Sheila Johnson

Nov 24 2013 Published by under The WiFiles

One afternoon a young woman left the hospital and decided neither to take a bus back home nor to call for a ride as she’d been encouraged to do. Instead she walked through the parking lot toward the retention pond at the north end of the property. The pond went largely unappreciated, almost to the point of being inconsequential, like a painting in the foyer of a well-appointed house. Because the hospital was located on a busy street, the young woman had passed the pond many times and had never seen anyone enjoying its benches or feeding its ducks. That afternoon, however, there was someone near the pond’s edge when the young woman arrived.

The old woman was bent in her wheelchair and was so thin that she matched the reeds and the cattails that likely hid frogs in the summertime. Taking a seat on a bench just behind and to the old woman’s left, the young woman watched as the wind made waves out of both the water and the old woman’s hair, which was long and as white as seaspray. Neither the pond nor the old woman seemed to mind.

“You know what I hate?” the old woman said without turning around. “Being here, in this wheelchair, in the fall. I hear leaves and twigs snapping beneath the wheels when I move. It makes it sound like a bonfire.”

The young woman actually enjoyed autumn for exactly that reason. The smell of smoke was always in the air, and the tops of trees were lit, yellow and crimson. To her, the world looked more alive when conventional talk suggested it was dying. She walked over to the old woman and told her as much.

The old woman smiled. “You don’t just spit back what your elders tell you. I like that,” she said. “What brings you to the hospital?”

The young woman considered what to say and decided on the truth. “I went to visit a shrink my parents want me to see. They think I need medication.”

“Do you?”

“Doc and I both say no, but my mom keeps paying for these visits,” she said. “What are you in for?”

“I’m a mermaid who got too close to the shore,” said the old woman. “The physicians believe I’m insane, so now, I’m a ward of the state, though a loosely kept one, it seems.”

“Gotcha,” said the young woman.

The old woman’s laugh was water itself, rippling, filling the young woman’s ears as if she were bathing in it. “I can tell you might not believe me,” the old woman said. “Here. Cup your hands together and bring me some of that pond water.” She bent over further, removed a shoe, and rolled a sheer nylon stocking down one of the legs that hung heavy as stone over the edge of the chair. The young woman did as she was told.

Dangling over the young woman’s curved pink palms, the old woman’s toes looked brittle and white, like pieces of wood left on the seashore to bleach. The old woman nodded, and the young woman lifted her hands to submerge the toes in the water. Instantly they changed. They became a thin, netted skin of pinks and blues, stretched into an arc by a series of ribs that appeared coated with pearl. The young woman stared as the old mermaid’s fin floated on the surface of the pool she held in her hands. When she was finished, she let the water trickle out between her fingers. The old woman’s fin turned back into toes as quickly as the water drained.

“Who are you?” the young woman asked quietly. “Do you have a name?”

The old woman hissed. “They call me ‘Mrs. Triton’ here, part of how they mock me,” she said. “I hate them. I refuse to let them bathe me. It’s doubtful they would react to me well or do anything other than subject me to tests.” She turned to the young woman. “When I tried to tell them my true name, they choked on it. It stuck in their throats and refused to come out.”

The young woman nodded, unsure of what she could offer in response.

“I have to ask you your name, of course,” said Mrs. Triton. “It’s only fair.”

The young woman thought about the matter. She considered telling the old woman the name she’d been using among friends and family for over a decade, but it was small and common, a moniker for a minnow. Having heard the mermaid’s story, she decided it better to speak her real name, her old-fashioned leviathan of a name, and not take the ability to do so for granted. “I’m Hestia,” she finally replied.

Again Mrs. Triton laughed. “Hestia,” she repeated. “Your name means ‘the essence of all things.’ Intangible, impermanent. Like fire. Small wonder they want to medicate you.” She cupped the young woman’s chin in her beachwood fingers. “Would you like me to ease whatever trouble they might be sensing in your mind, my Hestia?”

It was an offer that Hestia wished more people whose sanity had been questioned could receive: a mermaid’s tender blessing in lieu of mood stabilizers. She nodded and closed her eyes as Mrs. Triton’s fingertips rested on her brow.

She was suddenly aware of the idea of colors inverting themselves as her mind spun through a tunnel. In that tunnel, she heard the laughter of the customers she had waited on at the restaurant earlier and saw a glimmer of what might have been her beloved Lucy’s smile. When she opened her eyes, however, there was only the sight of the pond, shivering in the cooling air, and the sound of the ducks in private conversation.

“Everything looks the same,” she told the old mermaid.

“Because nothing inside of you needed repair,” said Mrs. Triton. “People are wary of your job, and confused by your lover, and upset by the very honesty that brought you over to me. They don’t understand what you are. That doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong.”

The young woman placed her hands in her lap and smiled.

“I’ve done what I can to set you free,” Mrs. Triton said. “I’d like to ask you to do the same for me.”

Hestia looked up at her.

“I can’t get close enough in this awful contraption,” the old woman who was really so much more explained, pounding a fist on the wheelchair’s armrest. “And crawling around on land, I’m too slow. There’s a chance someone might try to rescue me. I don’t want to be rescued. I want to go home.”

Young Hestia stood. “I want you to pretend like you’re fighting me. Hit me, flail around, whatever,” she instructed.

Mrs. Triton nodded. “I hope you know,” she said, “that I would never do such a thing. Except now, I suppose. I’m making an exception.”

The young woman placed a hand on the mermaid’s shoulder.

Even as she acted, words that described her actions became visible in her mind, appearing in boldface as in a news headline: YOUNG WOMAN KNOCKS ELDERLY PATIENT INTO POND. She imagined what anyone passing on the busy road nearby might see if they bothered, for once, to look: the wheelchair being eased over the rocks at the water’s edge, the old woman in the chair growing increasingly agitated and fitful, the young woman kneeling to console her but losing her balance in the flurry of the old woman’s assault and kicking over the chair with the unsteady panic of a person on fire. The young woman doubted that any of the people on the road, if they did see what happened, would trust their minds’ insistence that the old woman had shed her clothes, and her legs had fused and grown covered with scales, and her wrinkles had filled, leaving her skin as smooth as sails that had taken up the wind.

“Help,” Hestia called as the mermaid swam toward a drainage pipe that led to the river, “help!” It was a halfhearted plea. She was sure that neither she nor Mrs. Triton needed the assistance.

END

Author’s Bio: Most of Sheila Johnson’s published work has actually been digitally restored comic book art produced for the Marvel Masterworks books and for other companies’ reprint collections. She also works as a freelance writer and proofreader, though, and enjoys collecting her stories in handmade books that she binds and sells herself. Her website is www.sheilacjohnson.net.

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Icarus was the Sun by Maggie Rehr

Nov 17 2013 Published by under The WiFiles

Esther told herself that God was just taking everyone away one-by-one as an early payment for the rain. That maybe a few more swallowed hearts would appease the empty skies and let the lightning strike with spray. Only then would He let it rain, so that wilted hands and brittle branches would no longer have to claw at the horizon, waiting for the storms, searching for the Lord. Staring stone-eyed at the sun, wondering if He was still there, still listening, still cared about them at all.

The first to go missing was Pooki. Then Daisy, and Sapphire, and a few days later Duke. Soon after was Amanda Walford, a cute six-year old girl, followed by Donna, Amanda’s six-year-old Cocker Spaniel. Rocky was gone in a flash, disappearing shortly after Rex and Joan Crawley. A funeral was held for Amanda Walford the same day that Jackson Everest vanished from his bedroom, along with his Chocolate Lab, Abraham.

No bones ever turned up, no lost dogs were ever seen at the shelter or spread in gore on the shoulder of the road. Search parties were sent out into the desert looking for little Amanda, little Jackson, Mrs. Crawley, and at least 20 others who had seemed to climb into the sky, gone without warning. Here and there were paw prints or dog terds or other ominous signs scattered in the sand amongst the ancient cacti. Sometimes the wind blew so fast and hard that someone would joke that the missing might’ve blown away. It was the kind of rye humor that was solid enough to laugh at to break the silence of the dunes, but within the thought there was no real cheer. The only kind of humor that seemed to be left in West Riarena.

Life in West Riarena was no longer like a river, with sways and eclipses and swiftness of passage and dull shine. It was no longer predictable or patterned except in the fact that one was either dead or alive. Life in West Riarena was now sharp traffic; dodging collections of nearly-tragic passers-by. One either filled a coffin from death by drought and the starvation and the thirst it so venomously gave; or an empty wooden casket was laid deep enough for the dirt to devour it, but close enough to the open air that it could be removed. For good cause or for worse. For lost-and-found or the increased need for graveyard ground.

Esther had buried her older brother two months ago, Adam filling the coffin that’d been bought years earlier like a baby in a bathtub. His best suit was three sizes too loose, tie looking more like a noose in how it was draped and strung around his thin neck. Her only brother was dead, this brother that had refused meat, even in starvation for his sad suffrage of vegetarianism. When all of the plants died amidst the dust and sunshine so did such a fragile friend of Mother Nature’s. Everyone said that maybe God had murdered Mother Nature. Another rye joke in a town too dry for comedians. Esther didn’t want to believe it because then that meant that God had murdered Adam.

Esther told herself that God hadn’t really killed Mother Nature, that She was only sleeping. And when She’d wake up He’d send the rain, and the flowers would grow and the leaves would green and Adam would wake up and eat corn-on-the-cob like always before. Esther told herself that she wasn’t alone.

Parents didn’t live as long as usual in West Riarena, before or during the drought. There were too many black widows, rattlesnakes, vipers, poisonous lizards; too much skin cancer, dementia, influenza, malnutrition, fatalistic injury, too many countless ways to die at 50. But Esther had her mutts, all 10 of them, though their numbers had begun to diminish.

Esther liked to give her mutts human names, like Roger and Andrew. There was also Jennifer, Michael, William, Meghan, Kevin, Keith, Robert, and Richard. All mutts in West Riarena were really purebreds, but there was simply no better word at the time for the hounds. It seemed with many of Esther’s neighbors that as the drought stole their weight and their health and their families the mutts were allowed to run free on the streets. Shih-Tzu’s and Dalmatians crowded the sidewalks, Dobermans terrorizing the few remaining children as they’d try to get to school. But this was not the case with Esther’s mutts. They were all she had. So every mutt had their own room in her parent’s empty mansion, where they were kept for the night in safety and love.

But around two weeks after little Amanda Walford’s funeral, Meghan went missing. While searching for her lost friend, Esther could barely recognize the place she had called home. She felt like she lived in a town with zombies, everyone calling her crazy as she hung up ‘Missing Collie’ signs on lampposts. They acted as if she was supposed to give up on recovery because the wave of death was so immense.

“My daughter Jackie Lynn’s been missing for a month. And you care more about your mutt?”

All Esther could do was announce apologies and keep walking, tacking the printed papers onto every phone pole in sight.

The next to vanish was the little Dachshund named William. His disappearance baffled Esther, as he stood only a foot from the ground. Meghan, she figured, could’ve jumped out the window or somehow opened the door. But William could barely even jump on the couch.

Almost like counting sheep in reverse, by the end of the month only four mutts were left. Phone poles were dressed in black and white pictures of six slobbering faces, Esther’s phone number re-stated and re-stated across every page. And now there were no children left to draw boobs or mustaches on her mutts’ images, so the papers clung in place through wind and sun, until they’d rip and blow away. They’d litter the sand and cling, punctured, on the cacti. It was as if the desert was a Siren’s abysmal arms, pulling away everything in sight.

 

*          *         *

Most of the townspeople couldn’t sleep out of fear that they’d be stolen away in the night. While parents would cradle their children in their arms through the darkness to protect them from the devouring night, the whole family would go missing instead. But there was never blood, never any sign of murder. Only bed sheets tossed about, belongings knocked flat against the floor. It was this vague means that really painted the town in dread.

But what kept Esther up at night were the eight empty rooms of her mansion. She’d moved Roger and Keith to her room, despite their seemingly newly developed inability to sleep. When there’d been four mutts still left in the house they’d all sit awake by their respective windows, howling at the black sky. In this world, this twisted time, there was only the moon. Cold and gray and alone in the sky. There were no other lights turned on to shine from the heart of Heaven.

As Roger and Keith howled at the new moon Esther lay shivering in bed, clutching her father’s pistol tighter. She always slept with a handgun now, one of the few people in West Riarena to even own one. Her house was closer to the desert and further from neighbors than most, once the site of an expansive soy farm. Coyotes had been an issue, but the void had eaten them as well. With the lifeless metal grip sticky in her palm she finally fell into sleep, serenaded by the tearing moans of her only two friends.

Esther didn’t awaken until the calls were ripping outside her door. In her delirious half-dream the howls were just the multiplicative echoes of Roger and Keith, bouncing off the high ceilings. As she awoke a little more she figured it was coyotes, no threat, just an annoyance to her and her mutts. But as claws scraped up against the brick under her bedroom windows and slobber sprayed the air with gnarling gums, Esther was anything but asleep. She shot up and readied her weapon, stalking slowly towards the window. As she opened it and peered out she stood in the trap, ignorant of the growling shadow confined to the corner of the room.

In a flash Roger shot out from under the bed and Keith from the corner, each digging their teeth deep into Esther’s legs. She didn’t so much scream as she did lose half her heart amongst the sound of a tree set on fire. Her pain was not an echoing single shot of resonance into the desert night, but instead a deep sickness like nails grating against chalkboard bones.

Roger was a Yellow Lab, supposedly the picture of family-friendly perfection. But now there was blood on his muzzle, only the reflection of the gray moonlight in his eyes. Keith was much the same, his strong jaw biting down deep enough for both his teeth to touch. But both were careful not to let a drop of blood hit the floor, lapping up all the spills they could as they dragged their master across the room.

Before she was tossed out the window, Esther could see a throng of mutts all roaring below her in the dirt, dragging their vicious paws down her red stone walls. As Keith and Roger dropped her down, Esther glimpsed Meghan, and Andrew, and every other mutt she’d called kin. But head-first against the gray stones at the edges of her garden, Esther fell into darkness, turning indecisively around between thick shrouds of glass shadows.

 

*          *         *

When Esther awoke the bleeding had stopped; her scalp burned and hurt, leading her to the assumption that she’d been dragged along by her hair for at least an hour. She was laying on her stomach, sand sticky and dirt thick on her face. The grains felt rough and tasted bitter in her mouth. She longed to roll over, to see the moon and search for God, but her body was too broken. So she lay, panting in the exhaustion of pain, too sick in the freezing, dry air to cry.

“You know what they’re doing, don’t you?”

Esther screamed and shook at the bite of another voice. There was no energy left in her body to control the polite reactions to anything. She tried her hardest to roll onto her side, to see who was there and whether she could reach the gun tucked into her panties.

“Oh no, sweetheart, I don’t want you to see me like this. Not on your last night. Maybe on the way up you’ll get to see the moon, at least.”

There were too many disasters in three simple sentences to understand at all. Esther just started crying, in an almost relieving way, though this just caused the sand to clump to her cheeks and eyes and freeze in the cold. She didn’t have anything to say to another human, so she simply whispered prayers through her tears and assumed they’d reach the sky.

“Don’t worry, you’ll be on your way up there soon enough.”

“Will you stop!”

Finally, some comment came. Shaking and cold and too low on blood to barely breathe Esther felt her face cake with more sandy tears. Straining once again to turn over and face her supposed last labor in life, Esther fell hard on her chin and bit through her lip, fresh trail of blood tainting the already tear-littered sand.

“The mutts haven’t taken me yet because my bones are too thin. They’ve taken my legs, my left arm; I figure they’ll be back for my right soon. Though whether I’ll be alive to see it happen is up in the air.”

Trying to understand the meaning behind the voice’s words was like trying to hear a tambourine through a thunder storm. Every other word would register with Esther and slowly compute. Mutts. They. Alive.

Spitting a bloody strand of hair out of her mouth, Esther tried her hardest to speak.

“What about the mutts? Who’s doing this to us? What’re they doing with your legs?”

The voice shuddered for a second and Esther wondered whether the heart behind it had died. But with the click of teeth and a sniffle it spoke flatly and without pause.

“The mutts are stealing every last soul for miles around this desert. Nile City, West Riarena, Mountville. Just about any place with enough hounds and people who don’t dare carry a gun.”

“But what for?”

In the urgent eyes of death, Esther had no patience for dawdling manners.

“They’re building a stairway of bones, up, up, up, so they can get to Heaven and ask God to give back the rain.”

Esther wanted to laugh that rye laugh that folks in West Riarena had grown so desperately fond of. But there was too much sand in her throat, too much blood in her lungs. She simply cried some more, lost under the suffocating weight of the night and death’s boot heel on her back. She cried into her lip blood, until finally she passed out again. Though the darkness of unconsciousness was brighter than real life seemed to be.

 

*          *         *

 

“Hello?”

Esther moaned and hissed within her chest, withering with every echo.

“Hello? Where are you? Are you still here? Hello?”

She simply screamed in the silence. The blood of her body had pooled beneath her, ruined the pattern of her lovely black and white polka dot nightie. There was still no moving, right arm asleep under her stomach, left arm twisted and bruised and too tired to move. Her legs looked like a tree after a woodpecker had been at it. Covered in holes and seeping sap into the dirt.

Four legs had a much more recognizable sound than Esther could remember. Then came four more, and four more, and finally too many to keep track. There was no nostalgia to the panting and hot breath at Esther’s neck, only savagery and the flavors of a beast she did not know. Finally under the club-like paws of an enormous Saint Bernard Esther was turned over onto her back, dead new moon still trying it’s hardest to shine. Breathing the fresh air Esther had about a split second of peace, before once again her forehead shot with pain and an unknown animal dragged her behind them like a toy. Part of her wanted to pass out, but she kept herself awake in fear that if she dived down she’d never swim back up.

For a while the terrain against her broken legs and ripped-up back was the soft of sand, brittle at its worst. But as a collective howling grew in strength and dissonance, a new texture tortured Esther’s body. It was not rocks, it was not stone, or pebbles, or hard earth. Squinting across her peripherals as best she could Esther began her shaking again, and bit her lip right back open with shock. Bones. Hundreds of thousands of bones laying chewed and stripped and bleached by the desert sun, one atop another atop another. Skulls, ribs, femurs, and feet. The third layer of filth fashioned itself smugly onto Esther. Aside the dirty sand and the blood there was now the stink flesh of her dead neighbors. But she didn’t just take away their grime; for as the mutts pulled her up their mountain the sharp corners tore open her skin and made a path like baby ruby waterfalls.

Esther’s eyes and mind acted like strobe. There was too much terror to see everything straight or clearly. So instead her vision shot in and out, unfocused as her head throbbed with lightening static. But for minutes yet she didn’t die, only climbed on her back with fangs in her hair. It carried on for what could’ve been hours.

There was no making sense of the thin air all around her. One mutt would trade off with another, indicating that this was quite the long trek. And the bones kept piling. Esther couldn’t focus on very much, but her mind decided to torture her with visions of the deceased. How many towns now lay empty? How many parents without daughters and sons? She start to cry but  exhaustion would scold and she’d slip out but force her way back in. It was World War Three, all within her mind and there would be no survivors to write the history.

Suddenly everything steadied. Esther’s head was dropped, and let fall against a freshly peeled skull. Esther opened her eyes, lashes so thick with blood and tears that they seemed to weigh more than her bloodless body might. She could only feel the cold at this second. The cold of the black sky above, the cold of the gun which still somehow was tucked into her underwear, and most unrealistically the cold of the moon, directly at level with where Esther and the dogs stood. She gazed with eyes like holes that were trying to steal the moon away from the sun, the gray light her only illumination for the miles of her heart. Without warning her soul felt shock, and unconsciousness came again.

 

*          *         *

As had happened in bed, strict barking awoke Esther from her narrow, dreamless din. For a second of eternal optimism she hoped that this was all a dream and she’d wake up to Roger and Keith barking at the morning sun.

The blood in her mouth told the truth.

But when Esther opened her eyes she swore it was to more of a dream than the abyss she’d escaped. Far below she could see the moon, like the beam of a flashlight from so far away. In agony she turned her neck upwards, and felt her stomach pull inside itself. The black space above was rippling in envious blues, glistening as it caught the moonlight. A huge lake, as far as the eye could see, suspended in space. The mutts had finally found the rain.

But they simply barked at the lake, confused by the fact that they were not reflected. Within the depths there were no wagging tails or bloody muzzles. And there was no God above to explain. For each canine face that eyed the rippling plane, only a word dazzled back.

Dog

Dog

Dog

Esther considered this for a moment, feeling like she only had a bean-sized amount of brain left to think with. If every reflection is its original image backwards, was the lake suggesting that the mutts were God? The dogs were Gods? But through it all she wondered where God was. Where was the Lord. Was he hidden in the water, far beyond the surface? Or vanished altogether. Esther’s time to ponder this was cut short by her being pulled up to the top of the mountain by her hair, stuck in the center of a circle of dogs all barking at her. Each looking ready to lunge and rip her apart for their case.

From her new view the truth occurred to Esther. Laying underneath the shining pool, she was truly reflected. Her own image, plastered against the boundaries of Heaven. In the absence of God, we are all divine. The soul is as heavy a poem as a thousand scriptures and psalms.

Such bliss was short-lived as one dog stepped forwards, gnashing his teeth and growling wildly at Esther. And at that moment her heart screamed ‘not here, not tonight’, her veins pumping fire and the blue gleam of the water above. She reached into her panties, pulled out the hand gun, and started firing.

Two dogs fell to the boney ground, another whimpered as a bullet graced its hind leg and it toppled down the side of the mountain. Esther kept shooting as long as the adrenaline had her, though not as many dogs falling as it seemed should.

In the smoke and shatter she managed to catch a glimpse of two dogs coiled around one another, biting at shoulders and throats and bellies. It was Meghan, taking on a Greyhound twice her size. And to the left was Andrew, pinning a Pomeranian with a single paw. All of Esther’s own dogs were fighting by her side, against at least a 100 other mutts. A battle in which they had no chance.

Bullet after bullet after bullet the mass of blood and fur and bones shrunk and threw itself in circles. Esther managed to lean against a stack of skulls and shoot, useless legs tucked haphazardly under her dress. But out of the depths of the fervor came a big white Pyrnees, leaping on top of Esther before the bullet left the barrel. Biting at her firing arm the gun was directed upwards, shot speeding up to the water, striking the depths in silence.

Until there was a rush louder than thunder.

The dogs froze, tails curled and ears peeled back. The thunder grew, and grew, and grew, cracks appearing in the most abstract motion across the calm surface. Until it all collapsed. Miles of water fell down in drizzle and pour on the stairway of bones, the barbarian god dogs, and the one divine light, as she bled beneath the Pyrenees.

Esther’s captor didn’t cease for long as the rain fell, grabbing her by the leg and dragging her to the rest of the dogs. Hungrily they ripped her polka dot dress, tore her hair from her head. She screamed and cried and punched blindly with her arms and legs in the rain, trying in vain to save herself. But the dogs persisted. But the dogs were blind.

The filth of the evening washed away in the rain. The sand dripped down the slopes, the blood wrung clean from Esther’s skin and clothes. Her tears were replaced with warm water, hands of calm and softness. The rain all came down quick, and Esther began to rise.

Her ripped polka dot dress was sucked away, her hair lifted from the soiled earth. As the dogs viciously tore her limbs apart and warped her body from the beauty it had been, the pieces floated into the air like dandelion seeds. Jennifer the dog and William the dog watched confusedly as the little bits of cleansed self drifted up, and up, and up, never disappearing but too far away to tell their height. They shone so bright in their loveliness, white and blue light dust on the remnants of Heaven.

And there was no more rain to pray for, no more God to find. The dogs quit biting at the empty air, some angered by the enviable escape, others distressed by their own sick ways.

A few still howl at the sky at night, staring at the stars that are the skin and soul of a makeshift God. Her enemies will chew their bones, plotting some revenge and breaking the chance for her to end it all safely. They want to pull her down and see themselves reflected, watch her fall and burn at dark. But her friends will dig holes and bury innocent bones, in hopes that someday they can climb back up to Heaven and save her before she comes crashing down. No one can play God for so long; no one could stay so perfect forever.

Esther told herself that stars only shine so lonely for a little while anyway. The rain would come to tear her down, and Heaven would be just gray and dust and night. And everyone would search the skies, asking where She’d gone. Was there anyone up there to listen, or watch, or blame. Everyone’s really just alone with themselves, in the end of it all, after all, unenviable.

 

 

 

About Maggie: Every story Maggie writes is a culmination of all her temporary or current interests. Ghosts, incense, Robert Smith, or girls with too much cake. She aspires to bend the world, never break it, maybe just over-season it a bit. She hates apples, 80’s beach music, and skeletons. She loves macaroni, steam, and Bob Dylan. She loves when you love the things she writes. Maggie is nineteen and resides in Southeastern Pennsylvania.

 

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FLESH SINS By Celso P. Santos

Nov 10 2013 Published by under The WiFiles

“Each day teaches something to the next day”

An old saying from the people of Planet Lymann

Tell me frankly dear reader: have you ever had the unpleasant feeling of being in the wrong place at the wrong time?

Because that’s how I felt when, completely horrified, I witnessed that disgusting human waiter stick a metal spike in a tender vermok calf (steel deliciously bleeding) and without any ceremony or special prayer, put the animal inside a wide open oven, flanked by red flames as hot as the mouth of a dragon, and begin roasting it mercilessly, invoking the name of the Homo Sap Gastronomic School. I immediately pressed the hairy arm of my female and said quietly:

– They are definitely savages. Let’s get out of here!

– Are you crazy, Gon-Son-of-Haak? We cannot do this! It’s a great offense to refuse food from the host. And don’t forget that YOU are the Ambassador of our species! – It was her dry grunt that I received in response, followed by a quick warning bite.

I pulled my aching hand, howling some unprintable curse. I emptied a glass of sangria, and kept there snorting, resigned, upset…

Eating roasted meat. What a blasphemy!

According to the sacred commandments of the carnivores in the world of Van Dörf, that I received from my father, and my father received from his father, and his father received from his father, the flesh integrity was an absolute and sacred dogma, and like any dogma, absolute inviolable.

– Baking meat on fire is a barbarian thing! – We have always been taught by the Temple’s Oracle, since we were nothing more than furless larvae inside a marsupial pouch.

The new pack leaders are completely wrong if they think that because the Gods are not fashionable, then everything is allowed. Quite the contrary! In this increasingly pagan world, we have to stick to our little piece of absolute in order not to lose our sanity. I used to believe in the carnivorous orthodoxy: a vermok calf was to be tasted whole and raw, far from any fire, and at most seasoned with a few drops of beylafrè, a concession to modernity. And that was it.

– Eating fruits and vegetables also corrupts the purity of our race and is something for degenerates! Those doing that should be whipped publicly, and if recidivist, should be punished by the extraction of canines and expulsion from the Pack! – Told us the Temple’s Oracle.

These and another two or three were simple precepts, which, if not granting our entrance into heaven next to Betrok, the Great Hunter, at least a little reduced a bit the anguish of knowing we were finite and insignificant, in a complex, endless and expanding Universe, regardless of our fears, dreams and opinions on mundane and unimportant things, as the latest results of the Sun Tournament games or the preparations for the upcoming Hunting Festival.

– Our world needs to open up its trade with foreign countries. We need to know other races and other costumes – argued the younger Pack members, with willful and reckless enthusiasm so typical of this phase.

OK, OK, living is an adventure, I thought. But was it necessary to watch that sacrilege – a real torture – seeing a delicious vermok calf being roasted on the flames of a furnace?

– My will was to jump straight on the heretic’s jugular and suck it up to the last drop of blood! – I growled threateningly, showing my pointed fangs toward the human waiter.

– Control yourself Gon-Son-of-Haak! It’s OK that a servant is worth less than a good set of fur rugs, but what will they think of our people should you devour their slave? – Argued my female, strongly striking my snout, visibly irritated with my lack of manners at the table.

My ears bent down and I moaned sadly because I knew that deep inside she was right. The voice of a female was always considerate and wise. During these protocol meetings, any gaffe could be fatal to the business as well as to a diplomatic career (furthermore, the human meat seemed quite spongy, not tasty, and could cause a tremendous indigestion). I drank another glass of Sangria … I gazed vaguely across the crowd toward the entrance hall; sighed nervously… Deep, deep, deep inside, I wanted run out of there, away from that degenerate group of hairless aliens.

Eating roasted meat! This thought tormented me endlessly.

I had never eaten that impure food in my life, and the civilized reader, who certainly never tasted such poison, can easily imagine the state of despair that took over all my being. The smell coming out of the infernal oven bothered my nostrils and turned my stomach upside down. I honestly wasn’t sure if I would be prepared to endure such a terrifying experience…

Roasted meat!

What would happen to me? The tales and stories spoke of terrible transformations to those who tasted such forbidden food! The smoke in the room irritated my eyes. My throat was dry and my hands were covered by cold sweat. I walked down an unknown path, where the road never ended…

Roasted meat!

The table in front of us was filled with fruits and vegetables of all shapes and colors, which were totally unknown to me. The humans ate them in large quantities and amazing ease, while my people didn’t touch any of it. I wondered what kind of stomach the humans had to be able to eat such toxic things as vegetables and baked meat without falling dead. I concluded that the only possible scientific explanation was that they would have two stomachs, each suitable to a different kind of food digestion. Looking at their anatomy I speculated that such organs would be located near their buttocks: one side to digest vegetables, and the other for meat.

Living beings with two stomachs housed in their rear. That was awesome! Certainly this evolution occurred because their world must have had very little wildlife, hunting areas were scarce, which forced these poor beings to eat all types of leaves and grass to survive.

Roasted meat!

To be true, I barely paid attention to the conversations around me, and answered only with vague monosyllables to those who questioned me. My claws danced on the table producing an audible toc, toc, toc… That was a really uncomfortable environment! Why did my Pack chose specifically me for a diplomatic career? There were so many other worthy, honorable and safer occupations in life, such as being a warrior, a tax collector or wild beast hunter in the Dark Forest.

Roasted meat!

What would be my fate? My stomach would swell and burst releasing toxic fumes from the hot food? Would I die intoxicated by the indigestion? Would I fall drooling on the table? Would I have seizures or hallucinations? Would my brain melt and flow thru my ears? Would I go mad and start howling nonsenses? Would my teeth get soft and fall useless? Would I become sterile and impotent? Would the females then avoid me? Would my offspring be born degenerated? Could I survive in order to share these events with others? These and other atrocious questions hammered endlessly my little shiny ivory horn at the top of my fuzzy head.

A bell rang and the dishes started to be served to the crowd in a macabre parade of big steaming skewers. I looked around the tables and saw, astonished, that humans attacked the meat without the slightest respect or etiquette: each one took the portion they wanted and mixed all in one dish, without any logical or hierarchical order…

How utterly shocking!

That was an obvious absurdity, because when one sits at a table, a certain natural order must be followed. First, according to the customs, one must not mix meat from land animals, with meat from flying animals, or sea animals, just to mention a good example. Nor can one ever mix meat from herbivorous animals with meat from carnivorous animals: this is a total nonsense. And third, and most important, you need to make an equitable and balanced division according to the guests’ hierarchy. Tradition suggests that the banquet host should offer the noble parts – like the heart, eyes, tongue and brain – initially to the most important guest among those present or else, to whom gave the “coup de grace” and killed the prey. The intermediate parts – such as the thighs, ribs and back – go to the other guests. The lower parts – such as the liver, intestines and paws – go to the old, the females and cubs.

But there, in that ambient full of mad people, I realized in terror, the lack of minimum standards of education or formalities to follow. It was a total anarchy and everyone was by himself. They ate many kinds of animals and their cuts all at the same time. Human females ate noble pieces, while males ate inferior parts! For my nose, it was as if the world had suddenly been turned upside down, and everything was happening backwards.

Shake your head, lift your tail, raise your ears, and howl loudly, dear reader; do all the amazement gestures coming to your mind! Should you want, get rid of the horror words, if you can’t stand so much torture anymore, all will be forgiven to you. However, if you haven’t done this before and want to do it now, thinking I’m inventing things, I assure you the veracity of all that I’m telling you, in the name of my own offsprings. Everything went as described. It was in this terrifying way that they acted with their behaviors and manners.

– Bon appétit Monsieur – hissed like a snake the hateful human waiter as he served me, once again without any etiquette or special prayer.

I swear I had to hold the table not to attack him. I longed to have at hand a sword, spear, arrow or dagger. The look that I darted at him – if it could fire bullets – would have killed the human instantly. One of the Gods mistakes had been not to leave us equipped with attack weapons, but only with claws, fangs and horns, and as a defense or escape, our legs. During the first part, our eyes would have been far more efficient. A quick blink, and voila! The enemies would fall; they would intimidate a rival male during the mating season, or repair some injustice made, and also being able to cast an innocent look at the end, as a disguise. I looked at the table. That’s when my world collapsed altogether.

II

I gulped. My problems multiplied. Indeed, the mental torture I was subjected to, exceeded all possible imagination. I think that no one will ever endure moments so difficult in their lives. Fear, uncertainty, doubt, engulfed me like a huge wave rising from the sea.

Slices of a roasted vermok leg were placed in front of me, complemented by various colorful vegetables. The invisible spirit of the forest descended there, and showed me in a whispered voice, another terrible conclusion: “for God sake! They served meat and vegetables together: that is most obscene.”

– They are used to do this – said the female at my side.

I turned to her and asked amazed: – Did you hear it also?

– Hear what?

– A voice saying that they mixed meat and vegetables?

– How’s that! It was you who said that…

Even now I can swear that it was the voice of the Spirit of the Forest. Many things often happen, these beings expelled from legends and myths, influence our souls and speak through our own mouth, as I had finished to hear clearly… Trying to put myself together again for a time I not able to know, I kept watching the forbidden dish with my eyes wide open, and no reaction. I leaned myself over and quickly sniffed it, and immediately leaned back again, suspicious and wary.

I mumbled a prayer for the vermok: rest in peace, oh great and venerable animal, go with your powerful animals, to relive the memories you keep. Of all the travelers, you went farther. This shredded body of yours, here on the table, was vigorous and powerful, and walked to the end of the world. Where names and ancient people are lost, and countless memories and hopes fade, where in your death field, this great hunting ground, the world revives every day over the bones of the millions of devoured, there, in that awful country of impenetrable forests there lies your usual home. You have been where not even the sound of guns or hunters ever arrived; you slept beside the grave of many brave unknown, where their sleepless female companions would give their lives to rest. You saw embraced couples jump from the burning airship; united by their hearts, being engulfed by the waves of the triumphant jungle, faithful to each other, when the sky refused to help them. You saw the murdered companion when thieves threw him from the steep and rocky cliff, his body rolling down to the bottom of the deepest abyss, and his assassins continued their way. O mighty animal! You saw enough to bend the world and turn the Gods mad, and we will honor your memories!

Just in case, I lowered my ears, closed my eyes, and also prayed a brief forgiveness prayer to the Gods, when I explained them that if we were close to perpetrate that big heresy, was seeking a larger strategic objective of signing an important preferential trade with the humans, which would benefit our Pack. I mentally relayed to them the projections and statistics of the interplanetary trade flow that would be obtained with the agreement. In an attempt to attenuate the predictable (and fair) wrath, I promised them to double the daily prayers for one year, and the triple of prisoners to be sacrificed in the next war. After this was done, and with a calmer spirit, I went to render my patriotic duty: handling the metal cutlery, I placed the hated vegetables aside (ugh!), and then I tasted a small piece of that disgusting thing.

It was pure fire, and I almost burnt my tongue… As hot as the mouth of a dragon.

I chewed slowly…

Hum…

Interesting … The texture was firmer and the taste, more … subtle, in the absence of a better expression. Intrigued, I noticed that the inside portion was not roasted as the outside, showing a lighter brownish-color… The flavor was unlike anything I had tasted and difficult to explain.

I tried another piece.

Hum… It’s not bad at all!

Fascinating … To my surprise, although being hot as an ember and its exotic taste, it was soft and even… good? I’m Gon-Son-of-Haak! I’m Gon-Son-of-Haak! I’m Gon-Son-of-Haak! – I was mentally repeating my name like a mantra, to avoid forgetting who I was. The generous smoking slices were laying on a white plate. Cautiously, I tried a few more pieces.

Hum… Good!

Well… Apparently all was running well, my brain wasn’t melting and I wasn’t having seizures… Just in case, I tasted the whole dish, handling with some difficulty, the cumbersome metal cutlery, another strange custom of these humans, the dear reader must agree.

Hum… Tasty!

I was getting astonished… Maybe their Gods were more powerful than ours, or had a more tasteful and refined gourmet. After all, there were so many mysteries and unexplainable things in this infinite Universe… But one doubt struck me: would I be endangered of becoming sterile if I continued to eat? For a moment I hesitated, but, then I realized that I had never been a model progenitor. It was also necessary to consider that times were changing and in the absence of our own progeny, we could always solve the problem by adopting some unfortunate orphans instead eating them, I reasoned. I decided to ask a slice of spike-gnu to the human waiter.

Hum… Delicious!

Intriguing … It was a moment of crisis, I confess, but I have not lost my mind, I kept my posture and tasted other (generous) portions of marine mesossaurius’ fin and a pilgrim’s mastodon tongue (w/ garlic)… Just to be sure of what I was feeling, the understanding reader must understand my reasons: for different things, no comparison is possible.

Hum… Appetizing!

Unbelievable … It was better than the raw meat that my Pack had been eating since the dawn of time! To my relief, I found that my fangs were steady and my sexual organ was still in place … I tried portions of saber tooth bear loin (well done).

Hum… Juicy!

Incredible … Maybe we had been wrong, I finally thought, with a humility that filled me of pride. I was still lucid, remembered who I was, and to which Pack I belonged. My female by my side, was having a ball, digging her beautiful fangs into a large hillside camel thigh (undercooked). Her face was happy, frightened and fierce, all strangely mixed, but seemed visibly pleased … I kept tasting different roasts and grills of various animals of our fauna.

Hum… Divine!

After the endless feasting, I took a deep breath and touched my belly looking for any symptoms, however, everything was normal: I felt no pain, no twinges and wasn’t drooling or howling incoherently at the table… I drank another glass of sangria and devoured a last generous bit of a stuffed jumper moose head that I was served by the helpful and nice waiter. The head – the animal’s noble part – was reserved for the one who had killed the hunt, or to some notable guest. Needless to say I felt much honored with this small gesture of respect and courtesy from the humans, with my person.

Hum… Marvelous!

Finally, considering myself conquered, I left the table quietly and went to the kitchen, to talk to the chef.

I left there astonished, with my bewildered long tail curled between my legs, my belly full, and the book Handbook for a Good Barbecue under my hairy arm.

III

I secretly studied the Handbook for a few days, with the voluptuousness of someone browsing a subversive material. I thought and pondered long enough. The doubts haunted me, and I don’t quote them here to avoid extending this narrative too much. The dear reader should imagine how difficult it is to change much incorporated habits that we believed as true as the day and night. I had restless dreams and night sweats, but after the reading and having experienced various kinds of baked meat, secretly made on an illegal broiler of my hut (which I assembled with smuggled parts), with the company of only my female harem, I had to admit that:

The human cooking was wonderful.

Roasted meat … Hum!

I still had no courage to tell my Pack, but next month I’ll visit my native village. A perfect occasion. When everyone is gathered, I will assemble my grill and prepare a surprise crenissáurus barbecue, a giant herbivore whose meat is highly appreciated in our region.

I’ll implement everything I learned from the human Chef and the Handbook: first, in order to choose the best piece at Central Market, I’ll stick my finger in to the meat to feel its firmness / softness (this is the best way to check if the meat is “grillable”). It’s color should be pinkish red and I have to avoid the dark red meat (spoiled by too much refrigeration); There are lighter and darker cuts, depending on animal region that is more or less irrigated with blood ( the rump and the ??? are the most irrigated, tender and juicy) In the specific case of the prime rib, I should pay special attention to the bone transversal section: large and flat bones are certainly from an old animal, while small and rounded bones are from a calf; also, the fat must not be dark yellow – synonymous of an old animal – it should be of a light sand color; after this step, the thick and generous steaks shall be sealed on both sides with plenty of coarse salt, (gaucho style), and then placed on the fire; And finally, the ideal is that the meat be grilled at about 30 cm to 40 cm from the coal, a distance enough to receive the heat without roasting, in order to cook inside and softer.

I don’t even want to imagine what will be their reaction.

Well .. If the gods don’t make the sky fall or rain fire and sulfur on my head, I’ll be relieved. If the Oracle priests do not condemn me for heresy thru whipping, hanging or stoning in a public square, I’ll be in the winning side. Should I also escape from being lynched, dismembered, impaled, scalped, banned or having my canines extracted by my own Pack brothers, there’s no doubt that this will be an interesting gastronomic test.

By the way, the human waiter is always after me, proposing a business society. He showed me some amazing figures and said that a network of steakhouses in this world would be ten times more profitable than when McDonalds arrived in China… I didn’t get it right, but I asked some time to think about it.

Should I survive to all this, then maybe I will start mating with only one female at a time, start painting my long and sharp claws, or start bathing regularly.

After all, if raw meat is no longer sacred, then everything is permitted … (Just don’t ask me to eat a cabbage salad, for God’s sake!).

***

About the author: Celso P. Santos, 44, is a Brazilian writer of f & sf. He was elected in 2009 by ‘Scarium magazine’, one of the ten masters of modern Brazilian sf. Stories published: ‘The Flowers Antarctic’, ‘Russian Roulette on Mars’, ‘The Immortal’, among others.

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Sidekick by Chase Lindsey

Nov 03 2013 Published by under The WiFiles

Vigilante Enforcers?

By D.C. Lindsey (staff writer)

Two men were found outside a bank last night tied up to a light post. Vigilantism isn’t something the city of Tampa is surprised by, however this was a much more brutal beating than the common thugs on the streets of Ybor are used too. To date, there have been no concrete sightings of a new prowler on the streets though some local interviews describe what many would call just a boy. The phenomenon remains largely a mystery. Click the link below to read user comments or add your own.

Comments:

Click here to add your comments below.

Sharkleg: Just what this city needs, another $#(^ing superhero.

Fiasco_reborn: good man!

Z8sz: wanna really please your girl in bed? Click here to…

Patrolling: WTF TROLLS!

*

Ghost slammed into the wall and his back exploded in pain. He had enough time to gasp for air and spit out a wad of blood before he had to get his hands up to block the kick aimed for his face. The force of the kick was too much for him to block and he ended up redirecting the kick into the wall behind him. He threw his weight behind his elbow and snapped the man’s knee backwards. The man fell onto the grungy alleyway sidewalk, writhing in pain.

Ghost hopped up on his feet and scanned the shadows around him. There were still two more attackers out there. A girl was stretched out near a broken streetlight. Her dress was ripped and she sobbed quietly into her hands. He bounced on the balls of his feet and strained his ears against the dark. Crunching footsteps near a dumpster alerted him and he launched himself at the sound feet first.

He was jarred to a stop when the shadow sidestepped his kick and caught him around the neck. The shadow threw him down into a puddle near the crying girl. He shivered when his tights got heavy in the cold rainwater. The shadow stepped into the light and he sneered.

“Nero.”

“I’m sorry boy, have we met?” Nero asked. He brushed his long white hair behind his ear. “I don’t seem to remember any crime scene field trips.”

“I’ve seen plenty of you on TV. You killed that family in the church.”

Nero laughed, “I’ve killed lots of families…”

Ghost tried to get up but Nero spun around and kicked Ghost in the face. Coppery tasting blood flooded his mouth and he could feel one of his eyes swelling shut. Nero knelt down next to Ghost on the filthy pavement. He recoiled as Nero pulled him to his feet. A spicy, floral scent filled Ghost’s nostrils as Nero held him close. With a grunt Nero slammed the boy into the wall. Ghost’s mask fluttered to the ground and he looked up at Nero in the pale light.

“Look at you, some kid who thinks he’s a hero because he knows karate and has some tights that don’t fit right.”

Ghost tried to answer but the only thing he could get out was sort of a pathetic mewling sound. Nero laughed at him, picked up the mask, and then leaned in close.

“I’ll show you what happens when someone tries to play superhero.”

Nero threw Ghost into the wall and walked to the girl lying on the ground. Ghost tried to get up to help her but he couldn’t get his legs under him. He crawled along the pavement gasping. Nero stood over the girl and sprinkled small purple flowers over her body and then raised his foot to crush her head. Smoke pellets exploded all around them. The air was filled with the scent of gunpowder and then the acrid smell of smoke. Another shadow blew through clouds and Nero grunted. There was a thud and then Ghost felt someone picking him up.

Bright blue body armor coated the arms that carried him. Ghost was gently deposited in a seat that seemed to envelop him and hold him safe. He was aware of a car starting and he got the sense of movement even though he could barely see out of his eyes.

*

Ghost woke up on an exam table. His bloody tights were laying on the ground next to him and he was naked in the harsh light of a medical room. He grabbed a paper sheet to cover himself and tried to sit up.

“Don’t try to sit up yet”, a voice said. Ghost squinted in the direction of the sound. His eyes seemed to be getting better and he could barely make out a figure sitting next to him.

Justice sat near the boy, his body was coated in blue and red body armor. He had a blue hood and a blue mask that obscured his face. He pushed back the hood to reveal short brown hair that was just showing a little gray.

“You’ve had a rough night and you need to let the drugs work on you a little.”

Ghost frowned at the superhero. “Well Dad, if you would get me some body armor then maybe things like this wouldn’t happen.”

Justice sighed and pulled off his mask. Underneath the hard plastic he seemed tired and worried. “Listen to me Drake. The point of teaching you to fight and how to move like this was only for fitness.”

Drake shrugged. “Bad stuff happens to just about everyone.”

Justice shrugged at his son. “This is over tonight. Also, stop stealing your sister’s unitard.”

*

Drake and his father made their way through a small passage that opened into their kitchen. Drake’s mom was just finishing dinner as they walked through the passageway.

“You found him! Oh Drake, I was so worried”, his mom said. “We didn’t know what happened to you. You’ve been gone for hours, it’s almost midnight.”

Drake stood awkwardly clutching the paper sheet still wrapped around him. “Well, I’m fine I’m gonna go get dressed.”

Drake’s mother shook her head. “Just like your father, I’ll make some food and bring it up to you.”

Drake walked through the house to his room and slammed the door. He found a pair of shorts and a hoodie and got dressed. His desk had drawings of superheroes and costumes that he imagined he would wear someday. He stood in front of his mirror and checked out his wounds from the night. Whatever his dad had given him was helping him heal up quickly. The cut above his eye was just a scab and his bruises were already fading. He flexed his muscles in the mirror and was smiled at the result. He wasn’t the most built person but he certainly had some good development. He brushed his brown hair out of his eyes and checked the mirror closely, still no chin hair though.

He flopped face first on his bed. All he really wanted to do was sleep but he couldn’t pass out yet. He decided to do some research. He got his laptop out and started googling Nero. The man’s past transgression were easy to find in old newspaper articles. He searched again to try to get some sense of who Nero was but, all the information seemed to be missing. He thought about going down to his father’s lair and looking through his father’s files. A knock at his door startled him and he just enough time to close the laptop as his dad walked in with a tray of food.

“I thought maybe you’d like some time alone instead of with your mother. I told her not to worry.” His father eyed the closed laptop and the way Drake was laying on the bed. He smiled knowingly.

“Dad, no, I was just researching.”

“Oh, researching what?”

Drake sighed and sat up. “Nothing, is this for me?”

His father handed him the tray. “I hope you can understand why I don’t want you out there in the streets. Maybe someday, but son you’re just twelve old.”

Drake rolled his eyes at his dad. “I was exactly where I meant to be.”

“Where would you be right now if I hadn’t tracked you down?”

Drake just sat on the bed. He picked up the food tray and started eating.

“Like I said earlier,” his father continued, “I don’t want you out there trying to do something dumb”

“And like I said earlier Dad, if I had better armor then maybe I would have been safer.”

His father shook his head. “Maybe someday.”

“Dad,” Drake hesitated a second. “Was the girl ok?”

His father looked out into the hallway and scratched his chin. “She was pretty beat up but you stopped them before there was any major harm done.”

“See, Dad, I can help out there. Let me go with you.”

“No, it’s done Drake. It’s just too dangerous. Did she see you when you got to her?”

Drake scoffed at his father. “No one sees me Dad”

Drake’s father ruffled his son’s hair. “Almost no one.”

*

The next morning when Drake woke up his father’s words echoed in his head. He decided that he was old enough and that Nero had just gotten lucky. He grabbed his black hoodie on the way out the door. He would be back on patrol tonight.

He rode the bus to school that morning and sat with his friends. Everyone seemed to move in slow motion around him. His father told him it was from the training that he had gone through. His body was so attuned to what was happening around him that it just always felt like people were walking around underwater while he was just moving at normal speed.

School was a blur until the final bell rang and as he walked to his locker to grab his hoodie he felt someone’s hand coming to touch his shoulder. He spun without thinking, ready to throw the potential attacker off balance. Cindy Dawkins stood behind him surprised at how fast he had turned. She smiled at him.

“Hey Drake, some of my friends are coming over after school today to watch a movie, do you wanna come.”

Drake stammered — he felt backed into a corner. “I’m sorry Cindy I can’t. I have plans actually after school, maybe I can some other time?”

Cindy’s face fell, but she looked him in the eye. “I guess sure, whatever you want.”

Cindy turned to go and two of the goons that had been stuck in the middle school system walked up the hallway.

“Hey Cindy if Drake-dick doesn’t want to go to your party we’ll go,” the fat one said.

“Yeah, we’ll make it real fun, just the three of us,” the other said, playing with one of the zits on his face.

Cindy just shook her head and brushed around them heading to class. Drake widened his stance a little in case anything happened. The older boys looked at Drake.

“Hey look Tom he looks like he wants to fight.”

Tom, the fat one, looked over the smaller boy. “Nah Biggan, we’d kill him, besides, I wanna save my energy for something good.”

They glanced back towards Cindy as she walked out of the hallway and they laughed. Drake tensed at the way the bullies looked at Cindy. He decided to follow the brutes and grabbed his hoodie out of his locker. As the boys moved off down the hall Drake slipped the sweatshirt on and pulled the hood up over his head.

When the boys cleared the hallway Drake was right behind, wading through a flood of adolescents. He grabbed onto a pole flipped himself up onto the top of a covered walkway. He glanced down at a group of sixth graders staring at him. He shrugged and waved at them and then jogged off, careful to keep the thugs in view.

Drake kept his distance from the pair as they walked slowly through the school. Finally as the rounded the corner near the P.E. locker rooms Biggan broke into a run. Tom waddled some distance behind the lanky boy and puffed trying to keep up. Drake looked in front of them, trying to see what was making them run. There was a flash of blond hair turning the corner and Drake watched as Biggan careened right behind it.

Drake’s stomach dropped. It was Cindy. He took off running across the roof of the walkway and flipped over to the roof of the locker room. Cindy yelled and then there were sounds of a scuffle followed by a sickening thud. He sprinted across the roof and jumped to a small walk-space between the boys and girls area. Cindy was on the ground, a bloody gash oozed on her forehead. Tom and Biggan argued quietly next to her.

“It’s ain’t my fault the bitch fell,” Biggan said.

“Well who are we gonna blame it on?” Tom asked.

Drake crept up next to the thugs and said, “Here’s an idea. You two morons stand still while I find the resource officer.”

The thugs started at Drake’s arrival and wheeled on him like bulls. Tom glanced down at the Cindy and then back up at Drake and with a yell he swung his fist at Drake’s face. Drake dropped low and swept Tom’s feet out from under him. The fat thug collapsed to the ground with a wet splat. Biggan tried to grapple Drake but the smaller boy fell on his back kicked up with both legs, slamming Biggan into the wall behind him.

Drake rolled to his feet and knelt by Cindy’s side. Behind him the thugs got up and ran the other way. He didn’t care. Just as Cindy was starting to wake up one of the resource officers from the school rounded the corner yelling into a walkie talkie.

“I’m right where those kids said they saw the girl being raped – Oh shit, there is a kid here.” The cop drew his taser and approached Drake slowly. “Son, I need you to step back from the girl.”

Drake stood up and looked at the officer. “I had nothing to do with this.”

“Step. Back.”

Drake took a step back from Cindy. He turned around and waited until the officer holstered his taser and pulled out the handcuffs. The cop grabbed his wrist and tried to pull Drake’s arms down but Drake slammed his head back into the cop’s chin. As the officer fell Drake wheeled on his heel and wrapped his hand around the cops throat, slamming him into the pavement with more velocity than gravity offered. He looked around to make sure he was alone and caught Cindy’s eyes staring at him, full of fear.

Drake took a step towards Cindy but she recoiled in horror at him. Her head swept back and forth from the horror of the cop on the ground to the puddle of blood under her. He reached out to help her to her feet but he was interrupted when she screamed. Drake was shocked. He could hear people reacting to the scream and he took off, he jumped onto a window sill and climbed to the roof.

Drake ran across the locker room and leaped from one building to the next. He got off the school grounds and tried to head home. He kept to the shadows mostly as he walked home, keeping his hood up to look inconspicuous. When he finally got to his neighborhood he wasn’t shocked to see police cars surrounding his house. Despite himself he laughed. He climbed in a tree and started sneaking his way to see if he could hear anything that was going on.

Just outside the backdoor his parents were talking to one of the Sergeants on duty. Drake crept through the bushes to get close to hear what they were saying.

“No officer, he’s never done anything like this before,” his mom said.

She and the police Sergeant turned around and went inside but Drake’s father turned and looked right at the bush Drake was hiding in. He shook his head and walked into the house. Drake decided to wait until dark and try to get a few of his things, he’d figure out what to do after that.

As the sun went down Drake started to get antsy. He was about to take off and come back later that night when he got the sense that someone was nearby him. He turned and almost ran right into his father.

“What have you done?” Justice asked.

“I didn’t do anything,” Drake said.

Justice pulled the hood off his suit and looked at his son.

“I got caught up in something. These thugs were the one’s–”

“Save it son,” Justice grabbed Drake’s arm. “Right now you’re just gonna have to tell the police.”

Drake couldn’t believe it. He tried to protest but he couldn’t break his father’s grip. Justice walked Drake through the bushes and handed him to two of the officers waiting near a police car. They handcuffed him and started to push his head down to load him into the police car. Drake tripped over the curb and fell into one of the officers. The cop shoved him and Drake fell into the seat. They moved to close the door but Justice stopped them and reached into the car.

“He’s not just a street thug Officer, watch your gear,” Justice said. He reached behind Drake and pulled the handcuff keys, pick-pocketed from the officer, out from behind Drake’s thumb.

Drake stared at his father in disbelief and then anger. He flexed his muscles but he couldn’t snap the chain on the cuffs.

“I wouldn’t unhandcuff him until you get him locked up in a cell.” The officers nodded and got in the car. The car started and drove out out of the neighborhood. Drake sat in the backseat and struggled with the handcuffs. The officers rode in silence. Outside the scenery changed from the suburbs to the older, dreary washed pavement of Ybor City. The cop car pulled into a small ally near the interstate.

“Forget the way to the police station?” Drake asked.

The officers chuckled. One looked back at him and pulled his gun.

“Did you think Nero would let your insult go?”

Drake stopped moving and focused on what the cop was saying.

“He sends you this message, before you die,” the gun chambered a round with a click. “Your mom and your sister will die fast. Your father, Justice, will die slow.”

“How does he know who my family is?” Drake asked.

The cop pulled a long black mask out of his pocked and threw it at Drake. “He mentioned that you dropped this.”

Drake watched the gun was pointed at him. He steadied his breathing to keep himself calm. He waited until the muscles tensed along the officers arm and then dodged to the left. The bullet went wild and shattered the back of the squad car window. Drake heaved himself into the shattered glass and felt it give under his weight. The shards lacerated his face as he rolled off the trunk and slammed into the concrete with a thud. Above him a giant violin was being played with a bouquet of flowers. The spicy floral scent assaulted his nose again.

The door opened and both cops tore around the squad care weapons drawn. Drake swept the feet from one and then rolled as the second officer moved to get a better shot. As he rolled he kicked his feet out from under him and landed in a half squat near the approaching officer. He jumped as high as he could and caught the cop in the chest with both feet. They went down hard and Drake stood, victorious. He grabbed the handcuff keys and released his hands. As he walked back into his house he paused to pick up his mask and the nightstick from the cop still on the ground. He extended the nightstick and slammed it into the jaw of the first cop and walked out of the ally.

He tried to hide the nightstick in his hoodie as best he could and jogged over to the bus stop. He tried to blend in behind a group of college coeds. One girl dressed in a bright red University of Tampa hoodie wobbled in her high heels. The smell of alcohol filled the air. When the bus pulled up Drake’s foot darted out and tripped the girl. As she fell into the group of her friends Drake snatched her wallet out of her bag. He pulled out five dollars and handed it back to the girl. She slurred a thank you and got on the bus. Drake followed and paid the bus fare with the stolen money. He dropped the change into the girls purse as he slipped to the back of the bus.

Drake’s hands shook as he sat down. Nero had threatened his family. He gripped the nightstick in his hoodie pocket and his face hardened. When the bus got near his house he slipped off into the shadows and moved as fast as he could to his house. Something already seemed wrong as he jogged to the door. All of the lights were off.

The inside of the house was torn apart. Drake ran from room to room looking for his family but each room was more ripped apart than the last. He ran to the kitchen and pushed in the secret wall and ran to his father’s lair. All around him were signs of a battle. The walls were covered in bullet holes and there was fresh blood drying on the ground. In the lair itself the computer had been torched and all of his father’s justice costumes were in ruins.

Drake walked back into the kitchen. He set the nightstick on the table and sat down hard. He slammed his fist down on the hard wood. He picked up the newspaper sitting by his foot and threw it at the wall.

Violin Flowers Being Investigated

By D.C. Lindsey (staff writer)

The largest manufacturer of floral arrangements in Tampa, Violin Flowers,

is under investigation by the local police for several health code violations.

The company was founded in 1982 after a fire swept through the church

that was on the grounds previously. Violin flowers is most famous for

their use of the Purple Hyacinth. This warehouse has been a staple of Ybor

City for nearly thirty years and has never received previous violations.

Drake read the article over a few times and ran to his sister’s room to find the gray tights he wore. He slipped them on and found a pair of black basketball shorts to match. He added his mask, a pair of black gloves, and his combat boots. Then he clipped the nightstick to his waistband and slipped silently into the night

.

*

Two guards were stationed on top of the building. Drake crept as close as he could then burst from the shadows and clotheslined one. He flipped his nightstick out and slammed it into the guards throat. The other guard ran to help, trying to aim his rifle, but Drake threw his nightstick at the guard and dropped him. He finished off the second guard with a boot to the face. He picked up the guard’s walkie talkie and started listening to the radio traffic.

The earpiece crackled and Drake listened intently to the duty roster being spread out. He smiled. The guards were still guarding three prisoners. He ran to the end of the building and dropped into the alleyway below. He walked through the shadows and closed in on another guard. He popped his nightstick back out and clipped the guard in the back of the head, catching the body before it fell down. He dragged the prone guard back into the shadows and slipped inside the facility.

Below him the storage shed spread out into a small chamber. At the center his father sat tied to a chair. He was cut up all over his body and his face was bruised. From the way he was sitting Drake guessed that he had broken at least two ribs. Nero stood near Drake’s father with a knife in his hand. The blade was coated in blood.

Drake kept to the shadows but wandered around the room. He tried to get a sense of anyone else in the chamber but the only people he could find were Nero and Justice. He stopped and looked back at the door to figure out how fast he would need to move once he freed his father. Justice’s scream brought his attention directly back to the action on hand. Nero had started cutting his father open. The knife was deep. Drake flipped the nightstick out and charged Nero. He didn’t care about stealth he just wanted his father to stop screaming.

He swung at Nero’s knee but missed when Nero side stepped the blow. He kept swinging wildly and Nero dodged each one easily. Drake overextended on the last swing and Nero sliced open the boy’s wrist. The nightstick clattered to the floor uselessly. Nero stepped forward and kicked Drake in the chest. Drake slammed into his father and they both went sprawling on the ground.

“Shouldn’t you already be dead?” Nero asked, smirking.

“I won’t let you hurt my family,” Drake said.

Nero laughed. He shook the white hair around his head. His fingers, coated in dirt, moved quickly by his side like they playing the strings of a violin. There was a small purple flower clipped to his dark shirt and he wore stained black jeans. A black trench coat sat forgotten near Justice. Nero’s skin was pale, almost sickly in the light.

“Won’t let me? Look at him. I’ve hurt him pretty bad.” Nero’s eyes narrowed. “It’s just a small amount of what I’m going to do to you.”

Drake got to his feet moved back into a ready stance.

“Drake, you have to counter him,” Justice whispered, his voice laced with pain. “Don’t just attack head first, make him come to you.”

Nero threw the knife at Drake but Drake sidestepped the blade. Nero charged but this time Drake was ready. He parried the blows and waited for his opening. Nero wheeled around to kick Drake but Drake ducked under the blow and Nero was thrown completely off balance. Drake jumped and drop kicked his assailant and watched as Nero ran headfirst into a wall. Drake turned and grabbed the knife and started slicing open his father’s ropes.

“Drake, son, you did good,” Justice said. He coughed in pain and blood ran down his face.

Drake finished freeing Justice and helped him stand up. A burst of static in his ear caused him to flinch. The earpiece was too loud for Drake to understand but then Nero screamed into a receiver. “Take the shot, take it now.”

Drake shoved his father down and a shot rang out. He threw his body over his dad’s and felt the impact of the bullet somewhere below his left shoulder. He tried to get off Justice but it seemed like his muscles would work. His vision flashed white and he was vaguely aware
of Justice rolling him gently on the floor and then the sounds of a fight around him. He tried to get up but his body ignored him. He was so sleepy.

“Son, Ghost, you did great, just hang on a little longer,” Justice whispered in his ear a few minutes later. “Your mother and sister are fine, I’ve got them here.”

Ghost felt someone squeeze his hand. It hurt a little. He didn’t really care, he just wanted to close his eyes. He felt them closing on their own. Grateful, he let his mind drift away. No matter what happened, he was Ghost now.

Justice Saves Family from Thugs

By D.C. Lindsey (staff writer)

A family of three were jumped by thugs outside of Violin Flowers today

in Tampa, Florida. Two received only small bruising and the other,

an unidentified boy, was shot. The boy remains in critical condition and the

doctors are not sure of his chances at this time. The whereabouts of the thugs

are unknown, however, Justice assured the media that the thugs wouldn’t be

troubling anyone again. Click the link below to read user comments or add your own.

Comments:

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ASUSGr8: isn’t it a little cliché to have this whole thing about a superhero anyway?

taco_sauce613: Who the fck cares about some hero anymore?

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Brief Bio: Chase Lindsey is currently a creative writing student at the University of South Florida. He spends his time reading and writing under the warm sun in Tampa. For questions or comments he can be reached at chaselindsey@me.com.

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