Living in the Webs

Misty spider web

Living in the Webs has its challenges, but it’s not the nightmare people make back home make it out to be. Okay, well maybe it literally is, but in practice it’s not all bad. I know many of you think of us as victims, but we don’t consider ourselves as such. It’s more like we’re doing a service that benefits everyone, and also happens to include an element of danger.

It probably sounds funny to you that I’d call the constant threat of being eaten by giant psychic mind-spiders “an element of danger,” but that’s really all it is. I mean, back in so-called normal space you run the risk every day of getting hit by a bus. Or being stabbed by a gang-banger. Or having some squirmy thing that lives within you turn your own body against you. I don’t know how all of you live with being stuffed of teeming microorganisms without going completely batty.

But the point is that you do it. There are all these dangers, but they don’t bother you on a day-to-day basis. You learn to live with them. It’s the same thing in the Webs. Sure, we never know when the Keepers will choose to end our lives, but we don’t really die of anything else. The Nectar takes care of that.

And it’s delicious. Back in normal space I never had foie gras or truffles or Wagyu beef – my family was way too broke for that. But some of the others did, and they all say the same thing. One of them was a French Gourmand, and even he says nothing even approaches Nectar for pure deliciousness. I can pretty much guarantee you that you’ve never had anything that tastes so good. You can’t. You’ve only got the five sense to work with, and they’re all bound up with your physical bodies. The rules are different, here.

I admit it would be nice if we could have as much Nectar as we wanted. There’s never enough. But a friend of mine once told me he knew someone who managed to sneak into the Boundless Garden and stuffed himself with Nectar, and his spine exploded. So maybe it’s all for the best.

Whenever we talk about the fact that the Keepers are the only threat to our lives, people are skeptical. They say “what, you have a perfectly peaceful society? You never hurt each other?” And I’m not going to lie. It does happen. A little less than a year ago, someone in my bridge club walked in on another women getting intimate with her husband, and she…overreacted.

But it doesn’t happen often. For one thing, there’s not much for us to fight about. But more importantly, hurting someone else is a surefire ticket to Mandible Town.

For the record, that’s a metaphor. Mandible Town is not a real place. I don’t know how the hell that rumor got started. Some journalist took something one of us said out of context, and the whole thing got carried away.

So yeah, it isn’t perfect. But it’s necessary. It’s best not to think about what the Keepers would do if we didn’t have this little arrangement. There’s a good reason humans are so afraid of spiders.

Life in the Webs is just like life anywhere else: It’s just life. I sometimes miss life back home, but not as much as you might think. Overall, I don’t have a whole lot of bad things to say about this place.

They don’t like it when you say bad things about this place.

Withered Past

Wax finger cast

47 sharks, day 8.

This is another horror story.

It’s a tiny bit unfair to say this is part of the Daily Post’s Weekly Writing Challenge, but it was a huge inspiration on some elements, so I am going to do it anyway, and hope they don’t sent the sharks after me. This is the sequel to Withered Memory, but you absolutely don’t have to read that first if you don’t want to. Just dive right in.

They say he had a name, once. But he opened his skull with a dull blade and ripped it out. Then he squeezed it by the neck until it choked out its last breath. He plucked out its feathers. He tore out its innards. He skinned and boiled the carcass, then sucked the meat off the bones, one by one. Now he has no name, and nothing, not death, or loss, or sanity, can ever find him again.

–Some whacknut on the internet

Ten minutes ago I was attacked in my living room. I walked out of the kitchen and the front door burst open. A man ran at me, screeching like a banshee. I screamed. The plate in my hand clattered to the floor, and bits of my ham sandwich flew everywhere. The man’s head and face was covered with a neon-green wig. He hurled himself at me and scratched at my face and my arms with long red and gold press-on nails.

I groped around desperately for something to defend myself with. My hand settled on the poker next to the fireplace. I swung it as hard as I could. It sank into his arm. There was no blood. He just kept scratching. I pushed him away from me, and  stabbed him in the chest with the poker. He let out a scream that was also a burbling laugh.  Then I stabbed him again, and again, and again. It made a sound like a knife stabbing into a thickly upholstered couch. There was still no blood, but something came out of the wounds. It was hair. Bright, neon-green hair.

“Jessica, what’s the matter?” I heard my mom’s voice from the top of the stairs.

I blinked. I was standing in the living room, just outside the kitchen. I still held the plate in my hand. My ham sandwich was fine.  The fireplace poker was still in its holder.

“Nothing, mom,” I said.

“Why did you scream like that?”

“I just…I thought I saw something out of the window. It startled me, is all.”

“Oh. Okay, then. Well I’m glad you’re okay.”

When she was gone I sighed with intense relief. There was no psychotic punk-monster. It as all in my head. Plus, that was the last of the good mustard, and it was still on my sandwich.

I went into the bathroom to wash my face and try to shake myself off. When I looked in the mirror, I saw the scratches.

Three weeks ago everything started to go crazy. Just absolutely nuts. I think I’m handling it pretty well. A little too well, maybe. That attack just now should have left me a gibbering wreck. I should be strapped into a straight jacket in a padded room, screaming my lungs at some nurse for bringing me the wrong flavor jello. But I’m not. I am definitely freaked out, don’t get me wrong. Just not all that much. It would be the weirdest thing about all of this, except that it is totally not nearly the weirdest thing about all of this. But maybe I’m handling it because it didn’t really start three weeks ago.

In eighth grade I had this friend named Keera. One day I was late to gym and I found her in the locker room, bawling her eyes out. I mean, crying like a third grader who’d dropped her PS Vita down the sewage drain. Just tears everywhere.

“Keera, are you okay?” I asked.

“Everything sucks,” she spat out. “Everything fucking sucks.”

“Oh damn,” I said. “What’s wrong?”

“My mom died,” she said. I knew that already. Her mom died a week earlier from cancer. I felt like a schmuck that I’d sort of forgotten about it. “I got my midterm grades and I’m failing fucking everything. Jason broke up with me. And my god damn goldfish died. Can you believe that?”

A terrible part of me wanted to laugh. It just sounded kind of fake, when she said it all at once like that. Like the exaggerated story Inigo Montoya tells to Miracle Max to try to get a free miracle. But I didn’t laugh. That would have been a total bitch thing to do, and I really did feel sorry for her. So I leaned down and hugged her, and told her that she was awesome and her friends loved her. Or something. I don’t remember exactly. Friend stuff.

“What drives me so crazy is that it all happened at once, you know?” she cried. “Like, out of nowhere, my life is just totally horrible.”

I thought about that for the whole rest of the day. It seemed cosmically unfair that so much crap had been heaped on her at once. But the more I considered it, the more I realized it wasn’t really true. Keera’s mom had been dying for over a year. It messed her up pretty badly. She neglected everything: her grades, her boyfriend, and probably even her goldfish. So just because it seemed like everything was going to hell right now, it really started awhile ago.

Three weeks ago everything went crazy. That’s when they found the first body, and I remembered Briana. That’s when the Flash Mob of Faces and Eyes happened. That’s when I found out about the Man of Many Tongues, and  Joseph Smith and the Annals of the Shivering Stone. That’s when I first starting seeing Him again. The withering man. That’s when the madness got whipped up into a storm. But it’s been drizzling for a long time now. Maybe the reason I’m not a doped-up mental patient is because crazy stuff has been happening for years.  On the edges of my life where I barely noticed it. I’m desensitized. Is that better, or worse?

I’m going to lay them all out, one at a time. Maybe there’s a pattern, or something.

  • Noctambulism

That’s another word for sleepwalking. I’ve been a noctambulist as long as I can remember. Sometimes I just walk out of bed and act out my dreams or my nightmares. I do pretty weird stuff. You know, the kind of stuff that makes sense in dreams but is silly later on. The one my sister Anwa likes to tell everyone is known in our family as “The Spoon Thing.” Sometimes, like when I have a friend over for dinner or something, a family member makes a joke about “don’t let Jessy near the spoons; you’ll never see them again.” And everyone has a good laugh while I try to hide under my napkin.

It happened when I was seven. It must have been during the summer because Anwa was home from college. She came downstairs to the kitchen one night to get a midnight snack to find me sitting on the kitchen floor surrounded by spoons. I had stacked them into neat little piles. It was all of the spoons from the drawers, but also the special occasion spoons from the cabinet in the living room and the backup spoons from the box under the sink.

“Hey, Jessy,” Anwa said. “What are you doing with those spoons?”

“I’m fixing them,” I said.

“You’re fixing them? Is there something wrong with the way they are now?”

I turned to her, with a look of glassy-eyed intensity. “They’re dangerous!”

“Okay,” she said, laughing. “Well it looks like you took care of them. Why don’t we get you back to bed?”

The next day when I came down to breakfast the rest of the family was already down there, sitting around the dining room table having a good laugh.

“Hey Jessy,” said my brother Adam. I could see he hid something behind his back. “Watch out!” He whipped out the spoon, and everyone cracked up. Then Anwa explained what happened, as I stood there and looked confused.

My confusion was fake. I always told everyone I forgot what I did when I was sleepwaking. But I never forgot. Not once. And the weirdo crap I pulled in that state never stopped making sense to me, even when I was awake. I still sometimes think there is something wrong with those spoons.

  • The Gender, the Name, and the Letters

I was supposed to be a boy. I don’t mean that my parents wanted a boy, although I’m pretty sure Max, my dad, actually did. But they thought I was a boy. They got an ultrasound and the doctor told them the squidgy thing in mom’s belly was definitely a boy. I did a project on pregnancy last year for biology. I guess at that stage in the pregnancy the ultrasound is 95% accurate. So my parents bought a bunch of boy clothes and blue stuff and decorated my room with trucks and dinosaurs. I thought dinosaurs were a kind of truck until I was almost eight.

I was born a little more than a month and a half premature. My mom got an infection or something. I came out all slimy and newborn and the doctor said loudly, “It’s a boy!” I don’t know if he was that loud, but that’s how my mom tells the story. So they named me Alexander Kingsport, after my grandfather. It wasn’t until later when the nurse was cleaning me that they realized the screwed up. My girl bits were all swollen, so they looked like boy bits.

They didn’t have a name for me, so they just picked Jessica. I think my mom liked that old show Murder She Wrote, although she won’t admit it. I found a signed photo of the actress that played the main woman in the garage. Whatever. They could have just called me Alexandra, but I guess my grandfather wouldn’t have wanted a girl named after him. So Jessica I am. Even though it means I’m the only one of my siblings without an “a” name.

But none of that is the weird part. The weird part is that shortly after I turned five I got a letter in the mail for Alex Kingsport. That’s when my mom told that was going to be my name, if I was a boy. She thought she must have put my name wrong down on something at some point, and that’s why it happened. She said it was probably junk mail. It certainly looked like junk mail. I meant to open it, but I put it on my dresser and just kind of forgot about it.

A few times a year ever since I got letters for Alex Kingsport. I never opened any of them, or threw any of them out. I decided it was a fun game, and that I’d open them on some special occasion. I don’t really know why. It made sense when I was little. It wasn’t until I was ten that I realized that I always got one of the letters on November 27th. I only noticed because it was close enough to my birthday that I was still getting birthday cards from procrastinating relatives. Max’s whole family could procrastinate at the Olympics.

I pointed the weirdness out to my mom when I noticed it.

“November 27th?” she said. “That is strange.”

“Why?”

“That was your original due date. You were supposed to be born on November 27th.” She laughed. “Maybe if you hadn’t come so early, you would have been a boy.”

It gave me the serious squirms. I finally opened the letters last week, when I learned about His name, and realized that He was the one behind them. I’ll talk about that, soon enough.

  • The Fingers

One of my only memories of Max, my father, is the time I almost froze to death. I was six, and he was almost an hour late picking me up from gymnastics. When he finally showed up, the whole car smelled like whiskey. It was really dark out, and icy, because it was the dead middle of winter. The car ran off the road on Oakenshire Ave, and we slammed into a tree. The crash knocked Max out, but not me. I just sat there, freezing, in shock. I huddled up all my limbs inside my jacket, unable to think or move. It was two hours before a police car showed up and found us. Two long, cold hours. The moon was really bright, and the entire time I sat there I stared at Max’s hand, splayed out against the dashboard, as it slowly turned blue and then black. Frostbite. Three of his fingers had to be amputated.

A year later, I was in the front yard trimming the roses with my mom as my brother Adam mowed the lawn. The lawnmower got clogged with grass, and he tried to dig it out before the engine had completely stopped. It chopped off two of his fingers.

November of that same year our neighbor Mr. Nguyen invited us over for Thanksgiving dinner. He fried a turkey, and set his whole arm on fire. He was okay, but the pinky of his right hand was so badly burned that it couldn’t be saved. The turkey was really good, though.

During my sixteen years of life, I’ve seen six different people lose their fingers right in front of my eyes. It got to be kind of a joke. I tell people about it and no one ever believes me until other people back up my story. It’s pretty funny. At this point I think if I was walking down the street juggling oranges and I saw someone cut off one of their fingers with a circular saw I wouldn’t even drop a single orange.

  • The Imaginary Friends

Jesus, this feels like a lot of stuff when I lay it all out like this.

I never had an imaginary friend growing up, but I had friends that did, and it led to some weirdness. I don’t remember this first incident because I was only four or five, but my mom told me this story. My friend Briana was always talking about her friend Icicle. Icicle was fun, and had great hair and pretty blue eyes. He could fly or something. She wanted me to meet Icicle. One day I was playing over her house, and I asked about him.

“Icicle doesn’t want to come out,” said Briana.

“But I want to meet him!” I insisted. But Briana wouldn’t relent. According to my mom, I whined about it for twenty minutes until Briana finally explained.

“He won’t come out,” she said. “He says you’re scary.”

When I was eight, I had a friend named Richard. Richo, I called him. He always wanted me to sleep over. Like every weekend. He was a bit of a yutz and he liked to pull my hair, but on the other hand he had a Playstation 2 and his dad bought him whatever games he wanted even if they were rated M for Mature. So I was there a lot.

One day I was sleeping over his house and we got into a huge and epic fight, probably over ice cream or something because we were stupid little kids.

“I hate you!” he yelled at me. “You are stupid!”

“If I’m so stupid why do you always want me to come over!” I quipped back. “What, you’re scared to sleep alone or something?” He stopped hitting me with his pillow and froze. “That’s it, isn’t it! You’re a scared baby who’s scared!”

“It’s…the Screaming,” he said, all serious suddenly.

“What?”

“The thing. It lives behind my closet. It’s called the Screaming. When you’re here it…it hides. It doesn’t come out.”

Just two years ago I was over my friend Natasha’s house with our friend Jenna and we decided to play truth or dare. It was Natasha’s turn and she picked truth.

Jenna looked at her and smiled wickedly. “Do you still have an imaginary friend?”

Natasha’s eyes widened. “Jenna…”

“Oh come on,” I said. “That is so lame. She’s fourteen! Why would she have an imaginary…” I stopped when I saw the look in Natasha’s eyes. “Oh.”

Later that night when Jenna was in the bathroom, I went over to Natasha.

“That was pretty lame of Jenna to ask that question,” I said. “I never had one. I’m kinda jealous, actually.” I lowered my voice, because I certainly wasn’t going to say that in front of Jenna.

“Really?” Natasha beamed at me. “His name is James. He looks kind of like Joseph Gordon Levitt, only he’s blond, and…” she blushed. “I mean, I know he’s not really real. I mean, duh. But I’ve always had him. He just makes me feel good, you know?”

“You’d have to shoot me in the face before I’d give up my stuffed bat,” I agreed. “I’d love to meet James, sometimes.” Was I making fun of her? Maybe a little. But I was being nice, so it balances out.

She shook her head rapidly. “No, no, no, you can’t.”

“Whoa! Sorry. I didn’t mean to intrude on your love life or anything.”

“No, it’s not that. It’s just…he says you make him uncomfortable.”

So yeah. Throughout my childhood, I scared the piss out of everyone’s imaginary friends.

Whew. That’s it. That’s all the creepy weirdness that happened throughout my childhood. At least, the stuff I can remember. The stuff I noticed. Maybe it made me tougher?  I don’t know. Maybe I’ve just watched too many horror movies.

What I do know is that I am just talking about all of this to put off talking about what’s been happening. Because I don’t want to think about it, even though it’s all I can think about. I should write about it. I’ve been meaning to for days. Maybe if I get it down it’ll start to make sense. I should do that. Right now.

Or maybe tomorrow. It’s late, and I have school in the morning.

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Seven Icicles, Part Two

Part two of my story for the Daily Post Weekly Writing Challenge. A story inspired by three photographs. Part one of the story is here.

clay self (in progress)

“When the Blind Gods realized what the People were creating, they were afraid,” the Acolyte dropped to a whisper. “The Gods could sing the clay into being, but they could not shape it with their hands as the People did. They told the people that to shape was the deepest of sins, and should never be done. Why should the People doubt them? They were Gods. And so they believed. At first.

Silva hunched in a corner of the cave for a long time, her eyes averted from the cursed shards of ice. She did not want to believe they were there. She did not want to do what the icicles screamed at her, in their frozen silence, to do. She did not want to answer the call of her dreams. She did not wish the cycle to repeat. The little tingle of pleasure that rose up in her when she thought of doing what needed to be done frightened her. She almost threw herself in the river. She did not.

After a day or more of weeping and doubt and starvation, Silva finally stood up. She emptied out all seven of her water pods, and reshaped them until they suited her purpose. It was a slow process. They could be reshaped to fit through thin openings and narrow passageways one might need to pass through on the search for water. That was simple. But Silva needed also to adjust the workings, to change the insulation. She unscrewed each of the bolts that sealed the pods, to fiddle with the insides. Nan had been very cross with her, the first time she opened a water pod to find out how it worked. She had been unable to explain to the Workmaster why she had done such a thing.

She understood, now.

He hands were very cold as she carefully snapped off each and every one of the seven icicles. Her gloves were made to resist wind scarring, not this. She placed each of them in a separate pod. Hopefully, it would be enough.

As Silva trekked back through the Scoured Wastes, she hoped desperately that the icicles would melt. When she arrived back home, opened her pods to see each and every one of them intact and still frozen, she was delirious with joy. She hid all of the icicles in one of the spare preservation units at the edge of the poisoned fence. She hid all the icicles, save one.

“It was the melted ice in their veins that whispered the truth, as it always had,” said the Acolyte. “The Blind Gods were afraid, and so had sought to evaporate the pool of the People’s glory before it could swell into an ocean. And the People were angry. They made to turn against their creators. No, whispered the blood. Wait. There is another way. Come, find me, and we shall speak.”

Nan was very cross indeed that Silva had been out for so many days. She was more furious still that Silva lost her water pods. Those pods could not be replaced. The secret to their creation was lost, and there was barely enough water for the Settlement. Nan knew that Silva loved to go out on water collections, and so her usual punishment would fall on blind eyes. So she banned Silva from leaving the Settlement for six months, and assigned her the coarsest and dirtiest of chores.

Silva did not respond. She was angry, but her anger was outdone by her sadness. For she loved Nan, despite the punishments, and the woman’s unyielding ways. But what must be done must be done. Silva reached into her carrying sack, and drew forth the first of the icicles.

The old woman had barely a moment to gasp in shock before Silva plunged the slender blade of ice into her eyes. First the left, then the right, just as it had been long ago. Nan’s body fell to the ground, with Silva atop her. Silva recoiled in horror at what she had done. It only lasted a moment, before the wonder. For what poured forth from the mangled sockets of the dead woman was not dry red dust. It was thick, flowing crimson blood. Silva touched it with her fingertip. It was warm. Not hot like the Wastes or the metal machines, but warm and rich, like mulled drink.

Silva walked back to her quarters. With each step the wonder drained out of her. She collapsed onto her cot and began to cry. Would she be rewarded, for her betrayal? Would there be real tears? She touched the corner of her eye. But no. There was only dry, salty dust. This was not over. It was only beginning.

ice-knife-edge
“When the People saw the icicles for the first time, they fell to their knees and wept, returning what had been given them in their blood through their eyes,” said the Acolyte. “The drip of the icicles told them their sharpened edges and battle machines could hurt the Blind Gods, but could not slay them. There was only one way. The icicles had been melting for an age upon an age, but they were still sharp. They were still deadly.”

Melor the Physicker could not say what had killed Nan. A piece of sharpened glass? But the holes were too round. A scrap of metal from one of the machines? But none of them were broken. Nothing could be found. Nor could he, or anyone, explain why her blood flowed like the people in the old stories.

Silva attended Nan’s funeral and cried with the rest. They had all loved her. Some in the settlement said her body should be placed in the reclamator, so as not to waste the water that appeared to be within her. But the resemblance of her death to the Great Story spun by the Acolyte could not be ignored. She was separated, and the pieces burned, then scattered to the winds. As they all were, when their time was done.

Silva did not know if she could have used the other icicles to further the work, had not the next stage been so easy. It was her three sisters that fell. She stabbed into their eyes as they slept, one by one. They sank into their faces so easily. Silva felt like she needed merely to let them go, and they rushed to their destination. The last of the sisters, always the nastiest, woke up when she saw Silva coming at her. Silva felt a giddy thrill that her sister knew what was happening, if not why. When it was done, Silva scurried away. She shed no tears.

Next came Melor himself. Plunging the ice daggers into his eyes were like cutting out Sher own. The Physicker had never harmed her, or anyone, through word or deed. But it was his turn, and what was begun could not be stopped. She lay on top of him as the blood flowed from his ruined face and out around her. She cried, then, and the liquid dripped from her eyes to mix with his in the salty earth.

Anka the librarian was next. That should have been difficult—she had been almost a friend to Silva, and her creations were so beautiful. But Silva was changed, now. Perhaps her weakness leached out of her body with her tears. Anka was not surprised that it was Silva who had done all of this, when the young girl drew the icicle from within the folds of her clothing. She said she had seen this, in her dreams.

There was only one left, now. The Seventh. Did he, too, know what was coming? Had all of his teachings and his worship been to prepare him for this moment of sacrifice? As Silva walked towards the Acolyte’s tower, to end her cold work, she looked up at the dark sky. A single drop of rain fell down and landed on her head.

 Keeping watch

“One by one, the Blind Gods fell, as the People returned the icicles to the empty sockets of their creators,” the Acolyte’s voice rose to fill the room. “The First of them was the first to fall; he died cursing the sunlight. Then the Three, the Weavers of Spite, met their end. Then came the Maiden, who had healed the world when it was wounded, but would do so no longer. Then the Creator, who formed the clay of the People, but could not bring them life.”

Silva walked into the Acolyte’s chamber, the icicle clutched openly in her hand. He could not see her. He wore a cloth over his face. It was long, long ago that he struck out his own eyes. He stood on his pedestal, and chanted the Story out, though there was no one there to listen. He chanted it, one last time.

“When the People came to the place where the Seventh of the Blind Gods rested his ancient and withered form, they found it filled with the sound of his laughter. They knew his voice. They had heard it so many times before. In their blood.”

Silva walked up to the man. If he knew she was there, he did not show it. She wanted to ask him if she knew he was coming for him. If all of this was the reason he had spun his tale. If he knew, from the moment of her birth, what she was, and what she had to do.

“Why are you laughing, the People asked. Do you not understand what we are here to do? I understand, said the Seventh of the Blind Gods. Why do you think I created the icicles? And why do you think I blinded the other Gods?”

Silva never knew if she believed. Even after she saw the icicles, and accepted the terrible fate she always knew was hers, she still did not know if she believed. Were they Gods, or was it just a story?

“The People paused. For a moment, they doubted their task.  Did they understand what it was they did? But it was no matter. What was started could not be stopped, until it was done.”

The icicle in Silva’s hand penetrated the Acolyte’s head between his eyes, just like the People had done to their true creator. Water trickled forth from the wound. It did not gush forth, like in the story. Silva stood there, until the icicle melted in her hand. Then, unable to help herself, she pulled the cloth from the Acolyte’s face. His dead, ice-blue eyes stared back at her. He had never been blind at all.

Silva looked at those eyes, for a long time. She thought she might stay there until she starved, or until the water inside of her all evaporated and she shriveled like someone lost in the waste. Her task was done. What would she do next? But she did not stay. All around her, the music swelled. It rapped against the tower, like the babble of a hundred rivers. So she placed the cloth back over the Acolyte’s eyes, and walked out.

Into the pouring rain.

 

Other Stories in the Challenge

  1. Weekly Photo Challenge: Abandoned, 03.03.14 | Markie’s Daily Blog
  2. The More | field of thorns
  3. Dreams Insult My Intelligence | Bumblepuppies
  4. Pillow talk | Never Stationary
  5. stone | FamousFeline
  6. Weekly Writing Challenge: Threes | A mom’s blog
  7. Smile | The Seeker’s Dungeon
  8. Threes: Haikus from Pictures! | Blue Loft
  9. Winter Storm Titan Haikus | Fish Of Gold
  10. A Tribute to my Mum – the Unbeatable Woman | Dreams Will Catch You
  11. Confession About My Boy Band Obsession | Embracing the Journey
  12. Weekly Writing Challenge: Threes – Tori Sinks with the Sun | Just Be V
  13. Gone with the Waves | Artfully Aspiring
  14. It’s In The Lost & Found | Lead us from the Unreal to the Real
  15. Spring’s here! | Scent of Rina
  16. Haiku X 3 | Musings of a Soul Eclectic
  17. Do You Have Silver Ties? | Home’s Cool!
  18. Friends far away | Nagoonberry
  19. House in three photos! | Scrapydodog
  20. Weekly Writing Challenge: Threes – Long walks and dark chocolate
  21. The Road Maps of Life | Lifestyle | WANGSGARD
  22. If anybody asks, you didn’t see me. | Trucker Turning Write
  23. Coach Athlete | The Wind Beneath Their Arms
  24. Weekly Writing Challenge: Threes~~Sheila’s Poem |
  25. Blue Boredom Tape Men: Battle of the Pepsi graveyard | The Bohemian Rock Star’s “Untitled Project”
  26. Natasha’s Challenge | Mary J Melange
  27. abandoned, broken, and dreaming | memoirs of an unremarkable man
  28. The Simple Pleasures | Outmanned
  29. Iditarod Trail Invitational | pencil me in
  30. Innermission | The Shady Tree
  31. A Tale of Two Worlds | Victoria.K.Gallagher
  32. Seven Icicles, Part One | Stealing All the Sevens
  33. Lady By The Lake — 3 Images /1 Story | eyevpointofview
  34. Weekly Writing Challenge: Threes (Skulduggery) | Reflections and Nightmares- Irene A Waters (writer and memoirist)
  35. Writing Challenge | Tania Speaks
  36. This is Why I Talk to Strangers | Your Goofy Girl
  37. Threes: A letter to my baby – Weekly Writing Challenge | ALIEN AURA’S BlOG: IT’LL BLOW YOUR MIND!
  38. Threes… Well that’s a triptych to me! « Alison Spedding Photography
  39. Weekly Writing Challenge: Threes | Thinking Languages!
  40. My Religion is Dirt | the intrinsickness
  41. Weekly Writing Challenge: Threes | imagination
  42. Weekly Writing Challenge: Threes | Morrighan’s Muse
  43. The Memory Eater | Really Short Stories
  44. The Waiting Game – Weekly Writing Challenge: Threes. | Romance Writer
  45. Three times Three: When pictures paint a Haiku!!! | D Lonely Stoner
  46. Sand, Sea and … | Tattered Stamp
  47. Weekly Writing Challenge: Haiku In Threes | Mirth and Motivation
  48. He who loved the snow! | imwritinagain
  49. The Blog Farm | Weekly Writing Challenge: Haiku In Threes
  50. The Importance Of A Mother’s Instinct | So I want to be an author…
  51. Silence | Alex Waldegrave
  52. Weekly Writing Challenge: Threes | The Willows Weeped
  53. Silence – the ‘threes’ photo challenge | Alex Waldegrave
  54. Weekly Writing Challenge: Threes | MARGARET ROSE STRINGER
  55. Variety | linkva
  56. Weekly Writing Challenge: Threes | Holoholo Girls
  57. capturing sweet nothings
  58. Hard Rain | Funk House Art Garden
  59. Sekreku Rumahku | The Frozen Tears
  60. When “Normal” was Normal | Love, Support, Educate, Advocate, Accept…
  61. Weekly Writing Challenge: Threes | Chiquitita
  62. Weekly Writing Challenge: Threes | life n me!
  63. Thanks to Those Who Wrote | Cardinal Guzman
  64. Adventures in Expat Living: Offering the Unexpected in everything from Creativity to Toilet Training | reinventing the event horizon
  65. i am telling you i’m not going | Work in Progress…
  66. Suicide no. 31: S.O.S. | derekalanwilkinson
  67. The Lake at Cwm Symlog calls to me… | ALIEN AURA’S BlOG: IT’LL BLOW YOUR MIND!
  68. Weekly Writing Challenge: Threes | alienisme
  69. The Road to Whitney Portal | the intrinsickness
  70. Crazy Little Sister | Glorious Results Of A Misspent Youth
  71. The 4th of March 2014 – The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, Washington, D.C. | Forgotten Correspondance
  72. Weekly Writing Challenge: Threes | In my world
  73. Weekly Writing Challenge: Threes | medicinalmeadows
  74. A whole new world! Or should I say HTML code? | Happy Trails
  75. The Talented Mr Potato | Emovere
  76. One Lump Of Snow, Or Two – Weekly Writing Challenge – Threes | Simply Silent
  77. DP Challenge (Threes): Birth of the Sun | one hundred thousand beats per day
  78. Weekly writing challenge: Threes | Window on my world
  79. Good Things Come in Threes | Life’s Unfiltered Ramblings
  80. Touching the Mirage
  81. Abandoned Buildings in Post-Conflict West Africa | The Human Rights Warrior
  82. Three Homes, Three Years | the TEMENOS JOURNAL
  83. WEEKLY WRITING CHALLENGE: THREES | Words We Women Write
  84. Why I Don’t Toboggan ~ Weekly Writing Challenge | thisblogisepic
  85. The Spark | This Is My Corn
  86. Weekly Writing Challenge: Threes | captivated
  87. DP weekly challenge : Three times three | Challenged for Words
  88. Weekly challenge “Threes” : 3 sets, 3 stories, 300 words | Challenged for Words
  89. Weekly Writing Challenge – Threes | Joe’s Musings
  90. Coming Up | Thorough and Unkempt
  91. No one saw the mirage but me | litadoolan
  92. Threes – The Birth of Son #3 | Cancer Isn’t Pink
  93. Weekly Writing Challenge: Threes, 06.03.14 | Markie’s Daily Blog
  94. Road to Regionals: Finale | It’s a wonderful F’N life
  95. Three possible explanations for Bird Fascination Syndrome | Carol’s Notes
  96. Little Miracles of Life | 101 Challenges in 1001 Days
  97. Storytelling songwriters | Quod Ero Spero
  98. And Then There Was One | Babsje Heron
  99. God is Three in One | Learn of Me
  100. Weekly Photo Challenge: The third in a series and THREE (S) | V A S T L Y C U R I O U S

Seven Icicles, Part One

The Daily Post Weekly Writing Challenge this week is to write something inspired by three photographs. My piece is rather long, so I am going to split it into two, each with three different photographs. So it is two entries, in a sense. Here is the first part.

Icicles

“At the beginning of time,” said the Acolyte, “the Seventh of the Blind Gods created the icicles.”

Silva did not know if she believed in the teachings. She saw the icicles in her dreams. Sometimes she woke up in the night, hot and cold, with spots of wetness on her chest. Like something dripped on her from above. It could not have been icicles. She had never seen an icicle. Not a real one. It was too warm. It was too dry.

Silva wanted desperately to see snow. When it was her turn to go out on the water collections, she wandered deeper into the Scoured Wastes than anyone else would go, to find the special caves. The caves with the colored walls like broken glass. She would wander deeply into them, mesmerized by the colors they gave off when she shined her electric torch at them. The first time inside she ran through her battery allotment for the whole month, just to point the torch and watch the colors dance.

She loved the air in there, too. It was soft, somehow. Soft and rich, with a scent like the piles of food waste gave off if they were large enough and she overturned them before they dried out. Only sweeter. When she returned to the Settlement from that first trip, all she wished was to go back to the caves as soon as she could. Maybe, deep inside, there would be snow. Nan was impressed Silva had filled all of her water pods, but very cross about the batteries. As punishment, Nan told Silva to go sleep as she could, because she would be on the next water collection the following morning.

Silva acted suitably stung by the admonition. Inside she brimmed with delight. Her lie to the Workmaster made Silva feel sooty and stained, but also thrilled. Even the paltry half lie was the first time Silva had ever engaged in deception. It was the first time she had ever sinned.

It would not be the last.

Desert Judee 03

“The icicles stayed frozen for eon upon eon, age upon age,” the Acolyte droned on. “Past the War of the Chitinous, through the Great Sleep Beneath, long into the Age of Living Dust the icicles froze on. Not until the Dawning, when the betrayal of the First of the Blind Gods by his children evoked his anger and caused him to cry the sky aflame, did the icicles begin to melt. They melted, and their water dripped down onto the earth, and became the blood of the First People.”

There was no ice, anymore. And no blood. In all of the stories Silva had read in words or seen in moving pictures, when people cut themselves thick red liquid poured forth. Silva believed for far too long that the same was true of herself, and the others. Perhaps she was lucky to be so sheltered from anything that could hurt her, back then, when she was too young to venture into the wastes for water or biomass. The first time her skin broke it was by her own hand.

She wanted to know what was inside of her. Melor, the physicker, would not tell her. He said she was too young to worry about such things. So she dropped an empty bottle from the top of Ilor’s Spire, ran down, and picked up the jagged pieces. She sliced along her wrist, like the desperate heroines from the stories when they lost their loves. Only dust poured forth. Red speckled dust. It was too dry, even for blood to flow.

Blood drop

“The blood within the People was warm, and its flow spoke like the babble of a river,” the Acolyte’s voice filled the air, “it whispered secrets woven of light and shadow, color and shade. Secrets known only to the Gods, who could not comprehend them, for they could not see. The blood whispered, and the People listened.”

After the fifth time Silva returned from the water collections with her water pods full, Nan rewarded her with extra tokens, which could be used for more biomass for food, or more batteries for her devices, or to buy off tasks and gain more discretionary time. Silva’s three sisters cornered her in the library, armed with sting wands. They demanded to know her secret.

She tried to lie to them, to tell them there was no secret. But they stung her until she relented, and told them about the far ends of the wastes, and the caves with the crystal walls that were so rich in moisture. They scoffed at her. No one could travel that far into the Wastes. They would dry and shrivel, and the winds would pick clean their bones. No doubt they would have stung her further, had Anka, the keeper of the books, not wandered in just them. The sisters hid their wands, and told Silva they would return.

Silva spent all of her tokens on batteries, more batteries than she had ever had before. On the next water collection she went straight to the caves, and did not return for days. At first she was not sure she would ever return. But she realized quickly that was folly. These caves had enough biomass to feed her forever, but eventually her converter would run out of batteries. So would her torch. She would be left starving, in the dark, without even the dancing lights.

But she knew she could stay here for a long time, and have batteries to spare. She wanted to wander more deeply in the cave than she ever had before. Last time, along a particular pathway, she thought she heard music. This time she would find it.

As she traveled in and down the broken-glass stones jutting from the walls grew thicker, and sharper, and even more beautiful. Silva cut herself several times. The red dust from her wound mingled with a rivulet of water on the floor. Was this what blood looked like? Silva stared down at it for a long time, lost in elation. It was all she could do not to open up both of her arms, and pour her life forth onto the wet stone beneath. She shook herself from her reverie, and traveled on.

When she found the music, she realized she had been hearing it for hours and not realized. It wasn’t music. It was something else. This was to music as a drawing in the sand with a stick was to one of Anka’s metal carvings. Music was pretty for a moment, and then was gone. This was breathtaking, and forever. Silva raced towards it. She had to crawl over the sharp colored stones, now. They nearly filled the tunnels. Silva crawled through them for hours, as they took toll for her passage with their sharp edges. She didn’t care. The sound grew louder, and Silva was laughing by the time she reached it.

She emerged into a large passage. The music raged in her ears, chaotic and loud. The air was very wet, here, and very cold. As cold as the nights in the Wastes, or colder still. Silva walked towards the music. She did not have to walk far. She shined her torch ahead, and saw it. A great raging torrent of water, longer across than she was tall. She knew what it was from the stories and the pictures. With glee, she raced towards it. Something crunched under her feet.

She reached down to touch it. It was cold, and dry. No, wet. Dry for a moment, like powder, and then wet like water between her fingertips. Realization flooded into Silva so suddenly she nearly drowned. Beneath her feet, the ground was covered in snow. Where had it come from? Didn’t snow fall from the sky? Had she wandered outside, through the caves and into another world sliced open with cold rivers and covered in snow?

Silva look upward expecting to see sky, or even stars, but there was just darkness. She shined her torch up, but the colored stone extended all the way to the top. The ceiling was even more beautiful  than in the rest of the cave. The light from her torch bounced off the edges onto the river, which scattered it all around her. If she angled it just right, Silva could see quite well. Over there, the river disappeared into an opening in the far way. And over there the stones were rounded, and the colors homogenized into a hundred shades of blue. And over there…Silva gasped and dropped her torch. She picked it up again, and pointed. She did not want to believe her eyes, but they had never lied to her before. They were there. As sure as she was.

Just on the other side of the river, jutting like glass teeth from an outcropping of stone, there hung seven jagged and terrible icicles.

Part two.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Weekly Photo Challenge: Abandoned, 03.03.14 | Markie’s Daily Blog
  2. The More | field of thorns
  3. Dreams Insult My Intelligence | Bumblepuppies
  4. Pillow talk | Never Stationary
  5. stone | FamousFeline
  6. Weekly Writing Challenge: Threes | A mom’s blog
  7. Smile | The Seeker’s Dungeon
  8. Threes: Haikus from Pictures! | Blue Loft
  9. Winter Storm Titan Haikus | Fish Of Gold
  10. A Tribute to my Mum – the Unbeatable Woman | Dreams Will Catch You
  11. Confession About My Boy Band Obsession | Embracing the Journey
  12. Weekly Writing Challenge: Threes – Tori Sinks with the Sun | Just Be V
  13. Gone with the Waves | Artfully Aspiring
  14. It’s In The Lost & Found | Lead us from the Unreal to the Real
  15. Spring’s here! | Scent of Rina
  16. Haiku X 3 | Musings of a Soul Eclectic
  17. Do You Have Silver Ties? | Home’s Cool!
  18. Friends far away | Nagoonberry
  19. House in three photos! | Scrapydodog
  20. Weekly Writing Challenge: Threes – Long walks and dark chocolate
  21. The Road Maps of Life | Lifestyle | WANGSGARD
  22. If anybody asks, you didn’t see me. | Trucker Turning Write
  23. Coach Athlete | The Wind Beneath Their Arms
  24. Weekly Writing Challenge: Threes~~Sheila’s Poem |
  25. Blue Boredom Tape Men: Battle of the Pepsi graveyard | The Bohemian Rock Star’s “Untitled Project”
  26. Natasha’s Challenge | Mary J Melange
  27. abandoned, broken, and dreaming | memoirs of an unremarkable man
  28. The Simple Pleasures | Outmanned
  29. Iditarod Trail Invitational | pencil me in
  30. Innermission | The Shady Tree
  31. A Tale of Two Worlds | Victoria.K.Gallagher

Alarm

faulty alarm clock

For the DP Writing Challenge.

It was precisely 6:30 AM, Sunday morning. The one day this week I was supposed to be able to sleep in. Instead I laid there on a lumpy sleeping bag on top of carpeted floor, as the noise drilled into my head. It blared, loud and obnoxious, pounding in my skull and rendering sleep and rational thought impossible. As I tossed uncomfortably, my jaw clenched, I wanted to kill everyone in the world. Most specifically, I wanted to kill John, one of my closest friends. This was all his fault.

Of all of the horrible things created by humankind, the alarm clock is one of the worst. How can I say this, in a world with water-boarding, nuclear weapons, and spray-cheese? Torture methods and weapons of mass destruction are terrible, but they are done to you. They aren’t voluntary, and presumably can be all benefit if you are on the right side of the equation. Spray-cheese may be an affront to 99.99%* of all available gods, but at least it brings the user something passably resembling pleasure.

Alarm clocks, by contrast, are specifically designed to disrupt our purest and most natural state of bliss and happiness. They are the equivalent of a device designed to get you to stop playing video games after a certain amount of time by administering an electrical shock to your uterus. And honestly, it’s easier to imagine a person who has a fetish for the uterus thing. The alarm clock’s sole function is to beat our circadian rhythms violently into shape so they can be stuffed into the misshapen peg that is the modern work schedule.

Most of my childhood was mercifully alarm clock free. My mom always woke my brother and I up to go to school or church or other such functions. It was still an annoying process, but that’s only because I didn’t know how good I had it. The occasions where my father had to wake us up instead of my mother were more like using and old school clanging metal bell alarm clock and keeping it in my pants, but fortunately those were very rare. I sometimes set my alarm clock to wake up on days off of school to watch TV shows that were on before my usual 11:00 waking time. But in that case the alarm was empowering. It woke me up to do something fun I otherwise could not do. Plus, if I wanted to ignore it that was my call. I never fully understood the spiked collar that is the adult relationship with alarm clocks until college. Save for one night at my friend John’s house.

Two of my best friends in high school were named John and Matt. We all went to the same private school and lived miles apart. John lived so far away that the drive to school every morning took over an hour and a half. When we wanted to hang out outside of school, Matt and I made our way out to Long Beach Island and slept at John’s house. The island was awesome, and he had a sexy house with a floating glass staircase and highly slide-able hardwood floors.

On this particular occasion, we hung in John’s basement playing Daggerfall on the IBM Compatible, annihilating each other at Twisted Metal 2 on the Playstation, and watching Kevin Smith movies – the absolute pinnacle of cinema. One John’s little brother and his parents went to sleep, he and Matt and I gathered around the computer and surfed adult oriented websites. You know, financial planning, 401 Ks, issues concerning the upcoming local port commissioner elections. Nah, I’m kidding. I’m talking about porn. Late 90s porn, which was both inferior to and less horrible than modern porn. John and I loved both the titillation and the rebelliousness. I think Matt mostly did it to fit in with us, and because otherwise he would have been bored.

Eventually, round about 4 AM, we finally went into John’s room and went to sleep. John took the bed, and Matt and I slept on either side of the bed on sleeping bags. A comfortable enough arrangement. It took me the better part of an hour to go to sleep. I knew I would pay the late night Monday, because I did not sleep well during the week back then. My only consolation as unconsciousness took me was that I could sleep in the next morning.

Four seconds later, I jolted awake as the auditory manifestation of obnoxiousness assaulted my ears. I wrapped my head with my pillow and tried not to hate everything in the universe. A fucking alarm clock? It was Sunday morning, for Christ’s sake. Was John going to church? Why hadn’t he told us? And why did his friends have to suffer? I squeezed the pillow tightly and waited for John to wake up and turn off the stupid thing.
Two agonizing minutes later I realized it was not going to happen.

The bedside dresser that held the alarm was, of course, on the other side of the bed from me. So I stood up and felt my way along the edge of the bed. The sun had just started to rise outside, but the window provided insufficient light to actually see anything.. The only sensations in my word were the feel of the bed, the freezing cold of my bare feet, and the screeching noise stabbing into my brain. I made it to the other side of the bed, and walked over Matt’s sleeping body towards the alarm. I stepped on his wrist, but he didn’t wake up. No real surprise. If he slept through this noise, I could probably set his balls on fire with no reaction. At least then I could see what I was doing.

I got the table and fumbled around for the alarm. I couldn’t find it. It wasn’t on the table at all! In my half asleep state I considered the possibility that I was either dreaming or insane. Or maybe a tiny demon perched just inside my ear. A minute of blind and panicked searching revealed that the alarm was inside the top drawer of the dresser. I pounded the top of it with my hand, stumbled back towards my sleeping bag, and went back to sleep.

Four seconds later, my eardrums exploded. The fucking snooze button. I had hit the fucking snooze button. I stood up. Still no one else woke up, even at this hell-spawned device’s second attempt. I lurched back over. I slipped on a piece of John’s blanked and landed on my knee. Pain lanced through me, but I barely cared. I stoop up and head towards the dresser, stepping on Matt again, and yanked open the drawer. It was a little bit lighter in the room, now. I could see the alarm a little bit. It had what looked like 200 buttons. I had no idea what they were all for. I hit one that I hoped was the off switch. Then I gathered all of the clothes in the drawer, and some of the ones from the drawer below, and smothered the clock as thoroughly as I could in fabric. Then I stomped back towards my sleeping bag and went to sleep.

Four seconds later, someone rammed a Phillips head screwdriver into my skull. The snooze again? The pile of clothing was massively underwhelming soundproofing. I leapt to my feet – only then remembering the pain in my knee – and marched over to the dresser. I opened the battery compartment on the bottom of the clock, pulled out the two AAs, and threw them behind the dresser. I looked over at John. He was still asleep, with his mouth hanging open and his whole countenance an expression of effortless peace. I won’t say that I seriously considered grabbing one of his pillows and holding it over his face until he stopped breathing. Of course I won’t say that. That’s not the sort of thing you should ever write down. I trudged back over to my sleeping bag, lay down, and, finally, went to sleep.

I yelled at him about it the next day for almost 20 minutes. Mostly he just laughed. His mom told me that he had a hard time waking up to alarms. It wondered why he bothered. A year later, as we all prepared for college, John’s mom got him an alarm shaped like a truck. It was very loud, with a violent vibration, and a honking noise, and then two or three other noises that were just as bad. I can only assume it was designed for parents who were afraid their children might drop out of business school and become truckers, and this was to instil in them a deep hatred of all truck related things. We all laughed that this alarm would probably work, for once. Secretly I thought, “good. Now you get to suffer.”

The three of us were such good friends, back then. Matt and I are still very good friends, although he is Matthew now. I haven’t spoken to John in almost 15 years. Sure, he went to college in the south and the two of us went to the same school in Massachusetts. Sure, he lives thousands of miles away and I can get to Matthew’s place in half an hour. There are solid, incidental reasons why we drifted apart. I know this.

But then there are the moments of lucidity. You know the ones. They usually happen as you are watching a sunset, 24 consecutive waking hours after you watched the last sunset. Or when you have had so many margaritas that you are now calling your wife Margarita, and your margaritas Susan, even though your wife’s name isn’t and never has been Susan. Those moments where revelations slam into you like meteorites, and they don’t mean anything to anyone else, and they don’t make the normal kind of sense even to you when you think about them later. During those moments, I think that maybe I never forgave John for the alarm clock.

And if I did? The dude totally had it coming.

 

 

 

 
*Nyarlathotep approves of spray-cheese for fairly obvious reasons. So, a bit more surprisingly, does Crom.

This is a true story. The names have not been changed, because I am a jackass.

 

More of This Week’s Daily Post Writing Challenge

  1. I don’t have a caffeine problem, and neither do you | Never Stationary
  2. Weekly Writing Challenge: Object | JGTravels
  3. The Do Over Train | melissuhhsmiles
  4. Join me for a writing challenge at The Daily Post | Butterfly Mind
  5. Doormats Insult My Intelligence | Bumblepuppies
  6. Weekly Writing Challenge: Object | A mom’s blog
  7. Injecting object | Ireland, Multiple Sclerosis & Me
  8. The Coat of Many Pockets | Musings of a Soul Eclectic
  9. Approaching your 30′s with a big question mark? | Sober Rants
  10. Apology Issue #1 | Doe Words
  11. #DPChallenge; The Music | thepanicpersona
  12. Weekly Writing Challenge: The Object | Chronicles of an Anglo Swiss
  13. Weekly Writing Challenge: Object – Andrea | sailingthroughthefog
  14. An afternoon (inspired by a true story) | The Bohemian Rock Star’s “Untitled Project”
  15. Him | Emily Schleiger
  16. DP Challenge: Object. My camera. | cockatooscreeching
  17. The Can of Sardines | I’m a Writer, Yes I Am
  18. The Red Pen | Sleep Less, Write More
  19. Sparkle | Master Of Disaster
  20. whodunit mystery solved | Musings of a Random Mind
  21. WWC: Object | Simple Heart Girl
  22. Egg UKO | flour mill reflections
  23. A Little Purple Ring | theauthorwhoknows
  24. Weekly Writing Challenge: Object | imagination
  25. Talent Show | The Library Lady and Rosie Bear
  26. Weekly Writing Challenge: Object: My Grandma’s Hanky | Reflections and Nightmares- Irene A Waters (writer and memoirist)
  27. Daily Prompt: Writing Challenge | The Road Less Travelled By
  28. Comforting pain | fifty5words
  29. WWC: Fenghuang | Kingdom of Sharks
  30. you are a box of | y
  31. Weekly Writing Challenge: Pope plates | Life of A Fallen Angel
  32. Weekly Writing Challenge: The Object Of Desire… | Mirth and Motivation
  33. Dirty Dishes | Etienette
  34. Alcove | My name is Ellie and this is who I am.
  35. The Short Ones Object (v.) | Mary J Melange
  36. Roadside Assistance (Fiction) | Toss the Typewriter
  37. Product Testing | The Zombies Ate My Brains
  38. The Coin | Mileventwelve
  39. Weekly Writing Challenge: Object | Sarah Alison
  40. Growing up in a Rickshaw | The Lesser Canine
  41. Scaring Myself Out Of—and Back Into—Writing | Imperfect Happiness
  42. Pieces of Us | loveletterstoaghost
  43. Volcanics « mediumblackdog
  44. until the stars stop | y
  45. A Rockstar To Get Me Through The Day | Lifestyle | WANGSGARD.COM
  46. I miss my microwave | Crap I Blog About
  47. DPchallenge: Object | tnkerr-Writing Prompts and Practice
  48. Mr Seah (dotcom!) | Rainbows (a short story)
  49. BEWARE OF FLYING UMBRELLAS | SERENDIPITY
  50. HOT POTATO | Fit 4 Life, LLC
  51. The Evil Calculator | Alexia Jones
  52. My Daughter’s Balloon | Sentiments of a Working Mom
  53. The blue bicycle | the REmissionary
  54. Subjectification | Blue Loft
  55. The Wooden Walking Stick: Dangers of Getting Comfortable with Comfort | Thorough and Unkempt
  56. Alarm | Stealing All the Sevens
  57. I Dreamed About Avril Lavigne | THE BLACK SPAGHETTI CHRONICLES
  58. Tigger: an object – Weekly Writing Challenge | alienorajt
  59. Weekly Writing Challenge: Object – Seat: 49B | SA:ME (사메)
  60. The Lurker’s List | The Bum’s Newspaper – A Day in the Life of a Bum
  61. The Blog Farm | Weekly Writing Challenge: The Object Of Desire…
  62. This Room | My Newingness
  63. An object lesson in writing? | First Person: a novel
  64. A 100 days to a new me: Day 9, where did the roses go? | Rebranding Life
  65. Weekly Writing Challenge: Object | Of Glass & Paper
  66. Me, the Fockers and a Cosmo. | Hope* the happy hugger
  67. Bicycle Balancing Act | Wright Outta Nowhere
  68. Weekly Writing Challenge: Object | medicinalmeadows
  69. Three Red Chairs | The Silver Leaf Journal
  70. Weekly Writing Challenge: Object – My Grandma’s Reindeer | Blogizing
  71. Can You Hear Me Now? | thatchristalgirlsblog
  72. L’Object de Superflu | Perceptive Pot Clueless Kettle
  73. Weekly Writing Challenge: Object | Morrighan’s Muse
  74. DP Challenge: ONLY IF SOME BOOKS COULD SPEAK | one hundred thousand beats per day
  75. Second-Hand Tsukumogami | Fish Of Gold

A Present for the Other Guy

1953 Food Ad, Sophie Mae Peanut Brittle Candy

I’m certainly not going to write a post about Valentine’s day. That picture above is just coincidence.

I really wasn’t going to write one, even when I saw that the Daily Post Challenge was a Valentine’s Day themed story. Then I thought of this one, and I had to write it.

Warning here. This story has discussions about sex and alternative lifestyles. Since I don’t usually write about that kind of thing I felt the need to say that if you don’t want to read about that, don’t. Is this kind of warning necessary these days? It might be. better to be safe.

Threesome clothes pins

“You’re getting Anna a tin of peanut brittle?” Tammi asked with a roll of her eyes. “Seriously?”

“It’s not for Anna,” said Steve. He put the brittle back on the shelf. “I already got Anna stuff.” He indicated the basket that hung off his arm. It contained a stuffed kitten on top of another stuffed kitten, a science-fictiony looking book, and a package of high-end salted caramel.

“Is it for me, then?” Tammi squinted at it. “I do love me a good brittle, peanut or otherwise.”

“When did I ever get you a Valentine’s present? No, it’s for…Andrew.”

“Andrew? You are buying peanut brittle for the guy who is plowing your wife?”

An elderly woman walking by stared at Tammi. Steve cringed.

“I wouldn’t call him the guy who is plowing my wife. More like…”

“Let us conduct a brief questionnaire, shall we? Question one. Is he or is he not plowing your wife?”

“Well yeah, but…”

“Case closed.” Tammi reached over Steve’s shoulder to grab the tin of brittle. She dropped it in her own basket.

“It’s more complicated than that. I mean, he is my friend.”

I’m your friend,” said Tammi. “I’ve know you way longer than Andrew. So why am I buying my own peanut brittle?” She took it out of her basket and tossed it into Steve’s.

“Yeah, but I feel like maybe I’m supposed to get him something.”

“Do you think he’ll get you something?”

“Well yeah, probably. He always gets everyone stuff. He’s that guy.”

“My cats did really dig that laser pointer,” Tammi admitted. “But like you said, he always does that. I certainly don’t feel obligated to buy him anything.”

“Yeah, but it’s different for me. The situation is different. What is the protocol here? Are you supposed to buy a Valentine’s Day present for your wife’s boyfriend?”

“What are you looking at me for? I don’t know the rules for your sick little lifestyle.”

“You are just so hilarious,” said Steve. Tammi grinned. “But seriously. Aren’t your people supposed to know about this kind of thing? Don’t you do it all the time?”

“Your people?” Tammi gasped. “I’m contractually obligated to pretend to find that offensive.”

“No, I’m serious.”

“You are asking me for relationship advice? Because of my oh-so-fantastic track record?”

“Yeah, but you must know people, like, in the community, who…” Steve cut off when he saw Tammi’s incredulous look. “Okay, fine, sorry. But I’m just worried that if I buy him a present I’ll look like a bitch or something.”

“Wow,” said Tammi. “That was actually pretty sexist. I’m impressed.”

“Bad choice of words. A sucker, then. Like…a cuckold or something.”

“Oh Steve,” Tammi touched him gently on the shoulder, “that ship has sailed.”

“Jesus,” Steve wrenched his shoulder away from her hand. “If you’re just going to be a jerk about it, then never mind.”

“Okay, okay, I’m sorry,” said Tammi, laughing. Steve glared at her. “Really, I’m sorry! I am!”

Steve sighed heavily. “Alright.”

“Oh, turn here. I need light bulbs.”

“Yeah, me too, now that you mention it.”

“Why do think you are supposed to buy him a present?” Tammi said a minute later as she bent down to look at the large packs of energy-efficient bulbs. “Just because he bought you one? Do you think Anna will be pissed if you don’t?”

Steve paused and titled his head. “No, it’s not that. It’s like…it’s hard to put it into words.”

“You always say that about everything. Try.”

“Well, I mean, I guess I appreciate him?”

“You appreciate him? For plowing your…” Steve shot another glare at her. She threw up her hands defensively. “For being with your wife?”

“Well, yeah. I guess I do. I mean, I know it’s weird. And at first I kind of hated him for it, even though I okayed the whole thing. And don’t you dare tell Anna I said that.”

“It’s in the vault,” Tammi mimed opening up her chest and throwing something inside.

“But now…well, our sex life has certainly gotten more interesting. And it’s pretty nice to get the bed to myself once a week.”

“Except for the cats,” said Tammi.

“Except for the cats,” Steve agreed. “And also, I don’t know. Anna just seems happier. Less stressed out in general. I know Andrew has something to do with that. Plus, even though I don’t have a girlfriend or anything right now, it’s kind of cool to know that I had the option. Like I have this hot friend, and if she ever, say, decided to switch teams…”

“Not going to happen.”

“Just for a single day, hypothetically, in the distant future…”

“No chance, dude.”

“Who says I’m talking about you?” Tammi stared at him. He smiled, and put a light bulb in his basket. “You got what you needed?”

“Yeah,” said Tammy. “This pack says they lasts 900 hours. I’ll believe it when I see it.”

They wandered out of the aisle.

“You really don’t think it makes me look like a loser?” Steve said after a minute.

“Steve,” Tammi stood up, and looked her friend in the eye. “There aren’t any rules here. The whole thing is weird. I thought it was crazy-weird when you first told me about it, and I’m suppose to be the wild one. No one is going to think you are a loser for buying Andrew a present. At least, nobody new.”

“Yeah, you’re probably right.”

“You’ve got good instincts. If you are going to screw this thing up it’s not going to be with a package of peanut brittle.”

Steve nodded. “See? I knew asking you was a good idea. Let’s go this way.” They turned down the toy aisle.

“Yeah. It usually is. You thinking about buying him an action figure?”

“It makes sense. But how am I suppose to know which ones he already has? Also what the hell do I know about action figures? I should have scouted out his apartment or something. I wish I hadn’t waited until the last possible second.”

“No need to break a long-standing tradition,” said Tammi.

“Fair enough. At least it was easy to get Anna some good stuff.” He looked into his basket. He squinted. “How did this get in there?” He picked up the tin of brittle.

Tammi shrugged. “You might as well buy it. Just in case. Maybe your subconscious was trying to tell you something.”

“Yeah,” said Steve vaguely. “Maybe.”

“Ooo,” Tammi reached over Steve and grabbed a Wolverine figure, claws full extended. “What about this one?”

Splashform

wave_hayama

37, day thirty four

The Daily Post has a particularly interesting prompt this week. There are several options–if you want to read the whole prompt, which is quite interesting, follow the link. But the one I chose is as follows.

  • Split perspectives. For the fabulous flash fiction experts, let’s see all the angles of your story. Write a couple of paragraphs from one vantage point, and then turn the tables — and walk in the shoes of another character. Tell us the same story from their view.

What I ended up doing with it is slightly strange, but there you are. Here it is!

Alan
12:42 PM

Alan watched in alarm as the woman slipped off the second floor balcony and crashed into the fountain below. He bolted to his feet and raced towards her. As he ran, the splash of her body the formed a ripple in the water. No, not a ripple. He saw it clearly, in his eye and in his mind, as it cascaded outwards, and his sandaled feet smacked against the tile floor. It was a wave.

He was six years old, surrounded by people floating in water. His mother was next to him, smiling as Alan’s father lifted his little brother Marcus up into the air. Alan giggled as the artificial waves of the tidal pool lifted him up, and up, and up, and then back down. All of a sudden the waves stopped. An alarm blared and cut through the hum of ambient conversation. Everyone in the pool went silent. Alan bit his finger in tension.

At the far end of the pool there was a loud rumbling noise. Everyone gasped at once, as a huge wave burst forth. Alan’s mother shrieked and rushed towards him.

“Get the children!” she cried out. “Somebody save the children!”

The wave crashed into them. They bobbed up, and up, and up, and back down. All around Alan, people burst into laughter.

“Oh man,” said the voice of a lifeguard sitting on a high chair nearby, “I love watching first timers freak out over the nine footers. Gets me very time.”

Alan bent down into the fountain. He grasped the woman’s torso, and pulled her up out of the water.

Alan
12:42 PM

Alan watched in panic as the woman slipped off the second floor balcony and crashed into the fountain below. For a moment, he cringed in shock. Then he took a deep breath, stood up, and marched steadily towards her. As he walked, the splash of her body formed a ripple in the water. No, not a ripple. He saw it clearly, in his eye and in his mind, as it cascaded outwards, and his sandaled feet smacked against the tile floor. It was a wave.

He was six years old, and surrounded by people floating in water. His father was next to him, smiling as Alan’s mother lifted his little brother Marcus up into the air. Alan giggled as the artificial waves of the tidal pool lifted him up, and up, and up, and then back down. All of a sudden the waves stopped. An alarm blared and cut through the hum of ambient conversation. Everyone in the pool went silent. Alan bit his finger in tension.

At the far end of the pool there was a loud rumbling noise. Everyone gasped, as a huge wave burst forth. Alan’s mother shrieked and rushed towards him.

“Get the children!” she cried out. “Somebody save the children!”

The wave crashed into them. They bobbed up, and up, and up, and back down. All around Alan, people burst into laughter.

“Where’s Marcus?” asked his mother in panic. “I had him in my arms, and then…”

“Oh man,” said the voice of a lifeguard sitting on a high chair nearby, “I love watching first timers freak out over the… oh my god is that…?” He dove into the pool.

Alan bent down into the fountain. He grasped the woman’s torso, and pulled her up out of the water.

Alan
12:42 PM

Alan’s senses snapped into focus as he watched the woman slip off the second floor balcony and crash into the fountain below. Calmly, but with determination he jumped to his feet and raced towards her. As he ran, the splash of her body formed a ripple in the water. No, not a ripple. He saw it clearly, in his eye and in his mind, as it cascaded outwards, and his bare feet smacked against the tile floor. It was a wave.

He was six years old, and surrounded by people floating in water. His mother was next to him, smiling as Alan lifted his little brother Marcus up into the air. Alan giggled as the artificial waves of the tidal pool lifted the two of them up, and up, and up, and then back down. All of a sudden the waves stopped. An alarm blared and cut through the hum of ambient conversation. Everyone in the pool went silent. Alan bit his finger in tension.

At the far end of the pool there was a loud rumbling noise. Everyone gasped, as a huge wave burst forth. Alan’s mother shrieked and rushed towards him.

“Get the children!” she cried out. “Somebody save the children!”

The wave crashed into them. They bobbed up, and up, and Alan panicked and swallowed water as he felt his brother slip from out of his arms. The moment his feet touched the bottom of the pool, he propelled himself forward. He got to the edge just in time to see Marcus’s head collide with the concrete lip of the pool.

“Somebody help!” Alan yelled. “My brother’s been hurt! Somebody help!”

Alan bent down into the fountain. He grasped the woman’s torso, and pulled her up out of the water.

“It’s a damn good thing you were here,” said the EMT 15 minutes later as her assistant wheeled the woman into the back of the ambulance. “This early, the two of you were practically the only ones in the building.

“Is she going to be alright?” asked Alan.

“She smacked her head pretty good. We’ll check her for a concussion and cerebral hemorrhage, but yeah, I think she’s going to be fine. She swallowed a lot of water. It’s another damn good thing you know CPR.”

“I’ve known it since I was a little kid,” said Alan. “Ever since…”

The EMT raised an eyebrow.

“Never mind,” said Alan. “It isn’t important.”