Alphabet Blogs

C is for Catoptrophobia. The Fear of Mirrors

Image

Opal Perkins bustled around the farmhouse nervously searching for anything that she might have missed.  The place had to be perfect for Omar’s arrival.  She had waited too long and worked too hard to blow it on a forgotten detail like a doorknob or a piece of jewelry.  She’d be damned if she was going to let anyone take him back to that awful place because she screwed up again.

She knew her twin was still sick–that much Dr. Barrett had made abundantly clear–but she wanted her brother home, needed Omar to be a part of her life like she needed to breathe.  It was the sole reason Opal had gone through so much trouble and expense to purge every marginally shiny surface from their family home.  She removed every last mirror, bought the best non-reflective windows and covered them with sheer drapes, and swapped out all the doorknobs, light fixtures, and faucets with modern, matte-finish, black hardware. She even donated all her jewelry and her beloved sequined party dress to the church for the annual rummage sale.  Opal  told herself that she wouldn’t be socializing all that much once her brother came home in any case.

She opted to take all but one of the family photos down from the walls and place them in storage rather than replace the glass.  The image she kept–the one from the Christmas before Omar was committed–had given her comfort throughout the years, and she was unwilling to part with it.  It was the last time her family had been together and happy.  She remembered the love and joy that had filled the house when she looked at that picture, and she wanted so very badly for those feelings to infuse the house again.  So, she had that photo enlarged, framed with non-reflective glass, and hung prominently in the foyer above the console table adorned with a shallow, wooden, bowl of flowers.

The doorbell rang, and Opal hurried to answer it while wiping her sweaty hands on her skirt.  At the door, she paused to smooth her hair and steady her breath.  This time will be different, she silently promised herself.  The bell chimed again, and she put on her most radiant smile before throwing open the door and greeting her guests.

Ignoring Dr. Barrett, Opal flung herself into her twin’s arms and clung to him with all her might.  “Dear God,” she whispered into his collar.  “Please don’t take my brother from me again.”

Omar patted his sister’s back awkwardly.  “Sis?”  His voice trembled.  “I can see it in that picture on the wall.  Mother’s hand mirror.  The one she got for–”  He shoved Opal away and whirled away from the open door.  “Take it down!  I can see it!  It’s going to–”

Before she could stop him, Omar lunged down the wooden steps and disappeared into Dr. Barrett’s van, shattering her hopes beyond repair.

 

Alphabet Blogs

B is for Bogyphobia: Fear of the Bogeyman

Image

Cayden knew he wasn’t alone in the empty room.  Knew it like he knew his own name.  It wasn’t a ‘feeling’ or a ‘belief.’  It was fact

He also knew that no one would ever believe him.  Oh, sure, they’d pretend.  First, they’d crouch down and speak to the air next to him as if the faceless, shadowy, man-thing leering over their shoulder at him was an invisible playmate.  Then, they’d give Cayden a spray bottle filled with water and labeled ‘Monster Repellant’ in his mother’s handwriting.  And finally, they’d do the obligatory shake down of the dust bunnies under the bed, followed by a cursory, annoyed shuffling of the soft disarray of stuffed animals, cheap toys, and clothes in the closet.

“See? Nothing’s in there that isn’t supposed to be.  Nothing is going to get you,” they would conclude with an exasperated roll of the eyes, implausibly ignorant of the creature huffing in amusement right next to them.  “Now, go to sleep.  You’ve got monster repellant, a night light, your teddy, and the new dream catcher to catch those bad dreams and keep them from waking you anymore.  You’re safe.”  Then they’d turn off the light, and leave him alone with it.  Again.

‘Safe,’ they’d promised.  He hadn’t been safe for what felt like months, not since the man-thing first appeared, slinking through the night to carry away bad little kids like his grandmama had told him.  The first few nights, Cayden would lay in his bed, eyes wide, body stiff as a board, barely daring to breathe, while simultaneously praying that it was gone for good, and listening fervently for any indication that it was already there.  If he fell asleep–which he rarely did anymore–he would claw his way back to consciousness screaming.  Over time, however, his soaring terror had honed his senses to the point that he simply knew when the creature was in the room.  Even when–like now–it couldn’t be seen.

As if reading his thoughts, the man-thing chuckled–a sound that sent icicles plunging into Cayden’s fluttering heart.  Tears flowed unchecked down his pink cheeks as his small limbs shook in silence.  He curled his little body into an even smaller ball around his teddy, and snuggled further under his bunny-print sheet and blanket.  When the bogeyman ran a hand lightly along the curve of his back, Cayden stifled his scream by shoving a fist into his mouth and biting down hard enough to draw blood, but he could not stop the liquid warmth that seeped into his pajama bottoms.

In the morning, Cayden’s empty bed–rumpled, whimsical, bunny sheets stained with tears, snot, urine, and blood–would provide the only proof the boy could have ever offered, but only after it was much, much too late.

Short Stories, Writing Contest

Mother of Dragons – Writing Contest Entry

Image

Mother of Dragons

“Again!” The hatchlings darted around her as she waded through the hip-deep water, pleading – as they always did before she returned to the surface – for her to recount the tale one more time.

“You have already heard it a thousand times over,” she admonished.

“Please?” They begged in unison.

Drawing the smallest dragonet from the murky fluid, she held it before her with a stern expression. As she gazed into its earnest, slitted eyes, it lovingly wrapped its tail around her slender wrist. Her lips twitched, revealing her resigned bemusement.

“Very well,” she relented, as she always did. Gently returning the creature to the water of the birthing chamber, she glided to the far end of the chilly, stone temple, and settled regally onto the edge of the central dais. She absently tucked a loose strand of her lustrous dark tresses behind one sharply pointed ear, smoothed the wrinkles from her sleek, cerulean tunic, and began to speak, her voice low and smoky.

“In the days when the World was new, Men and Dragonkind became embroiled in a bitter war. Whatever incident sparked the conflict was lost from the Chronicles and it was not for many ages that it became clear that neither side could ever emerge victorious. In order to broker a peace, Kalani, the Queen of Men, offered to become one with the Dragon Caliph, Garron, so that the races would be forever joined by blood. Garron accepted the queen’s proposal and an extravagant celebration was prepared to commemorate the end of the Great War.

However, Kalani never intended to fulfill the agreement. On the day of the feast, she secretly adorned her lips with a poison so that the first kiss she shared with Garron would be his last, paving the way for her conquest by treachery.

All went according to the queen’s designs, until her youngest daughter, a girl in her twelfth year and the only person – besides herself – that Kalani had ever loved, congratulated Kalani with an impulsive kiss.

The little princess fell into a state a hairsbreadth from death. Consumed with anguish, Kalani begged Garron to save her daughter.”

At this point in the story, she paused to allow the hatchlings to consider what Garron might have done. She watched them impassively as they swarmed before her, and then drew a breath to continue.

“Garron had had his fill of battle, yet he was not a weak ruler. He demanded that Kalani immediately surrender all subterranean territory to his people while Men remained above ground before he would heal the girl. Once Kalani agreed before the entirety of the World, Garron took the young princess below to his stronghold – to this very temple, in fact – to be restored.

Her recovery was not an easy thing. It took two seasons and left her significantly less human than she had been. Her survival was of such importance to the fragile peace that Garron supervised her care personally, and in doing so, gradually came to love her.

When the day came for her to return to her mother, the princess left Garron with a heavy heart and ascended to the surface. Her ordeal had made her unrecognizable to Kalani, who demanded she prove her identity. Humiliated and betrayed, the princess spurned her mother and declared her love for the Caliph.

Realizing her mistake, Kalani begged to make amends with her daughter. The princess was soft of heart and relented. A contract was made which finally brought a lasting peace to the World.

This is how it came to pass that the Mother of Dragons consented to spend two seasons of each year on the surface in the company of Kalani, and the other two seasons below with her love and their many children.”

Her countenance softened as she said, “So you see, my loves, why I must go? If I do not, our races will be plunged into a conflict that none would survive.”

“Yes, Mother,” came the discordant response from the water.

A proud smile graced her lips as she regarded her dragonets. Rising, she moved from the dais to the adjacent stairway. She slithered up four steps before turning to lift a hand sadly in farewell. “I will return soon, my loves.”

She turned back quickly to hide her tears as her sinewy, undulating tail carried her to Kalani.

Other Stories, Short Stories, Writing Contest

A Time to Reap – Another Writing Contest Entry

I am once again attempting to hone my writing skills by entering a short story contest hosted by Theresa Oliver’s Short Story Page.  I hope you like it!

The basis for my story.

A TIME TO REAP

Eilain hated her job. It was bad enough that she had to partner with that lech, Thanatos, on the occasional unusual reaping call. But recently, the number of cases had been growing, resulting in her having to spend more and more time rebuking Death’s sexual advances. The guy just wouldn’t give up. It was exhausting.

“Knock knock!” a jaunty masculine voice chimed through the closed – and locked – door.

Eilain rolled her eyes. Speak of the devil.

“I’ll be ready in a second, Than,” she called. “I have a few things to finish up.”

“Just don’t take too long, beautiful,” he replied, his voice heated. “This one’s special. I’m getting a chubby just thinking about it.”

She sighed heavily, her hands resting on the heavy mahogany desk, and bowed her head in helpless disgust. A moment later, the off-key rendition of Nelly’s Hot in Here assailing her senses from the far side of the door finally spurred her into action. With a resigned heave, Eilain pushed herself back and to her feet. She snagged her Hourglass off of the corner of the desk before padding across the room, throwing the bolt, and hurling open the door.

“Hey, baby!” Thanatos greeted her with a sleazy smirk, “Wanna touch my scythe?”

Eilain shouldered past him and gracefully descended the front stairs, grumbling loudly, “Let’s just get this over with, okay? I have a million things to do.”

“You know,” he leered, gliding up behind her and breathing into her ear, “there have been studies that prove that sex improves concentration. Maybe after this, I could help you -”

She cut him off. “Give it a rest, will you, Than?” His breath on her hair was making her stomach turn. She reached the portal and turned to face him. “I am not in the mood.”

A spark of anger flashed in his sockets. He sneered, “What the matter? Is it that time of the month again? I would think you had better control of that, being the Mistress of Time, and all.” Predictably, he injected overt sexual tones into his pronunciation of her title.

Eilain rubbed her temple with her empty hand and spat, “Just shut up and do your job, Death. I know it’s hard for you to refrain from being a lecherous ass, but just this once, try. Try hard. This call is worse than the rest.”

“What’s eating you, Lainey?” he murmured, sounding like a whipped puppy, his anger doused by confusion.

She turned her back on him, effectively putting an end to his loathsome attempt at conversation, and activated the portal. Holding her Hourglass before her chest with both hands, she took the lead, and stepped decisively through the shimmering black membrane.

Thanatos followed, one hand on his scythe, the other gripping her right shoulder so they would not be separated in transit. Once they had arrived safely, he quickly removed his bony fingers before she could shrug them off, possibly aware that he was pushing his luck too far tonight.

They walked to a small cottage – alone in a misty, wildflower-laden field – in silence. Nothing moved but them. No birdsong reached their ears. No breeze ruffled their hair. A pregnant hush blanketed the surroundings, welcoming them with resigned, bated breath.

Entering the cottage, they glided unopposed to the bedside of an exceptionally beautiful woman. She reclined peacefully – her glossy hair artfully spread over silk linens, her lips full and red, her body curvy and voluptuous beneath the thin sheet, the thick lashes of her closed eyes fanning over her flush cheeks.

“Is it time already?” the beauty whispered, her voice heartrendingly weak, eyes still shut.

“I’m afraid it is, Venus,” Eilain answered gently. She watched the last grains of sand pour through her Hourglass rather than Venus’ perfect face, unable to bear witnessing the death of Love.

Thanatos shattered the somber mood by proclaiming gleefully, “Look at the jugs on this one! JACKPOT, baby!”

Eilain closed her eyes. I hate this job.

Other Stories, Philosophy, Short Stories, Writing Contest

The Well of Souls: Another Writing Contest Entry

This week’s writing contest entry is based on this picture: I hope you like it!  🙂

The Well of Souls

The girl sat cross-legged in the dirt at her grandfather’s feet. Only by absently braiding her long, jet-black hair could she manage to not wiggle in anticipation of the story he would share today from his crude, wooden stool. It was her favorite, and even though she could recite it herself, she preferred it when Grandfather told the story.

As she unbound her hair to begin plaiting again, she swept her eyes over the audience. In addition to herself, there were 8 other children, ranging in ages from 4 to 13, gathered in the small thatch hut to hear the tale. Chattering and fidgeting, they settled down swiftly once they heard Grandfather’s deep, smooth voice fill the chamber.

“When the world was not yet born and the heavens lay fallow,” he began, his dulcet tones capturing the undivided attention of even the youngest child, “the Goddess chose to fill her realm with Light to balance the Darkness.”

The girl closed her eyes and sighed in pleasure. Lightly reclining against her grandfather’s leg, she envisioned his words coalescing into a richly woven tapestry displaying scenes of the Goddess and the Well as the story progressed. In her mind, the girl could see the Goddess – beautiful, serene, powerful – kneeling purposefully by the Well of Souls, pouring the very essence of life into the glistening, translucent pool.

With the Pillars of Creation at Her back, the Goddess caused the Well of Souls to overflow its banks, bringing all that is to the barrenness of the Universe. Stars winked into being across the velvet of the heavens, flashing like jewels, and birthing planets, comets, moons. The Goddess then fashioned a planet, the cradle of our ancestors, and tethered it delicately to Her wrist so as to keep it close. The planet, secured like a bracelet, transformed droplets spilled from the Well into lifeforms. These creatures were mortal and eventually returned their spark of life to the Well, causing another soul to spill from the pool. Thus was the Circle of Life perpetuated.

“As the Goddess surveyed Her work,” Grandfather’s voice dropped to a dramatic whisper, causing the children to listen even more intensely, “She smiled. And all of Creation knew Her Love.”

The girl reluctantly opened her eyes, sad to have reached the end of the story, and looked up to find her grandfather watching her. Her heart fluttered for a moment, frightened that she had somehow displeased him by appearing to sleep while he spoke. Alarmed, she searched the faces of the other children – still rooted in place as if waiting for Grandfather to continue – for a hint of her offense. Finding nothing, she twisted to face him once again and beg his forgiveness.

The corners of his gray eyes crinkled in amusement as he silently drew her first to her feet facing him and then warmly into his sinewy arms. He murmured softly into her ear, “Never forget, Granddaughter, that we will all one day return to the Well of Souls from whence we came. But even when my soul has rejoined our ancestors, my love for you will continue to rival that of the Goddess. You bring Light into my heart, child.”

The other children could not have heard the words the old man had whispered to his grandchild, but their joyful whoops clearly made it known that this was the ending to the story they preferred.

Other Stories, Short Stories, Writing Contest

A Mother’s Love: Writing Contest Entry

It amazes me how, whenever I seem to run low on inspiration, the Universe provides.  This post is my entry into Theresa Oliver’s writing contest based on the following image.  Please check her out on Facebook and don’t forget to let me know what you think of my short story.  Thank you!

A Mother’s Love

“Captain, I’m telling you, there’s nothing here,” the scout informed his superior over the comm link. His voice was steady, but his eyes darted nervously, searching the sparse landscape for movement. Suddenly spinning in place, he pointed his drawn energy weapon at…nothing.

His skin crawled. He felt as if there were eyes upon him every second he was on this barren chunk of cosmic rock. But he had found nothing to indicate there was – or ever had been – anything alive on this dwarf planet.

“You sure, Winston?” The crisp voice of Captain Joquani reverberating from the link startled the scout.

Winston Kessel jumped. This reaction, melded with embarrassment and his unease, intensified his already deep loathing of the planet. “Yes, Captain. Of course I’m sure. There’s no structures. No water. The scanner’s not picking up any life signs at all.” This last part Winston delivered through gritted teeth because it wasn’t entirely true. The scanner had indicated something, but…

“All right,” Joquani’s voice dripped with annoyance, “get back up here on the double, Kessel. No point in wasting any more time on that emergency beacon if there weren’t any survivors.”

Winston’s relief was palpable. “Roger. On my way.”

He felt a hand on his shoulder. Winston instinctively squawked a curse and struck out, delivering a lightning quick blow that would have seriously injured whoever had touched him…had anyone been there. The sensation of being watched grew more vivid in conjunction with the stiffening of the baby fine blond hairs on the back of his neck. A warm puff of air, akin to the breath of a lover, caressed his right cheek. He winced, knowing nothing was there, but feeling a presence just the same.

“I’m going now,” he mumbled softly and he felt an instant ebb in his sense of foreboding. The bony fingers dancing a jig up and down his spine did not evaporate entirely, but Winston no longer had the burning desire to claw free of his own skin. He walked the short distance to his shuttle – his steps measured, his back stiff – opened the hatch and climbed inside as indifferently as his overworked imagination allowed.

The scanner is malfunctioning, he told himself for the hundredth time. Alia is not here. It’s crazy.

Winston buckled himself in, worked through the checklist as quickly as possible, and blasted off the desolate dwarf planet without a backward glance.

* * *

Alia Kessel stood near the edge of the rocky precipice – her long black hair and deep navy dress undulating in the soft breeze of her son’s departure – and exhaled a sigh of relief tinged with regret. As she watched his ship retreat over the sandy ocean into the somber blue clouds of the alien planet, Alia allowed her form to slowly fade once again into the ether, satisfied that Winston would now be safe from the true denizens of this planet – creatures so alien that they did not even meet humankind’s definition of alive.

A single tear glided down Alia’s right cheek as she whispered, “I love you, my son. I will watch over you always.” A heartbeat later, she was gone.

Humor, Short Stories

Another Photostory Competition

I found another writing competition based on this photo:And here’s my submission – I hope you like it:

FLYING SQUIRREL CARGO

He stirs as the sun dips peacefully below the horizon. His deep, even breathing becomes a yawn, followed closely by a very satisfying, bone-popping stretch. Sighing heavily, he sits back on his hind paws, using the other two to groom his fur. “Another night, another walnut,” he mutters to himself, absently scratching his tail. He grabs an acorn from the pile opposite the hole in his tree, snags his flight bag with another paw, and hurries into the deepening gloom.

“You’re late, Sal!” yells a big red squirrel, heralding his arrival to work.

“Bite me,” replies Sal with a rakish grin. He knows Red just likes to bust his nuts. “Got anything good for me tonight?”

“Nah. You’re still on standby,” Red replies.

Sal drops his flight bag next to a recliner and wordlessly pours himself a mug of the thick, stale, caffeinated swill that passes for coffee in the hangar of the Flying Squirrel Cargo Company. Sipping it with only a slight grimace, he scampers over to the computer to check the weather.

All the METARs, TAFs, and FAs indicate nothing but light winds and clear skies throughout the entire system, relegating Sal to a long night of sitting around. The only way he’ll get to fly tonight is if a regular line pilot has a mechanical.

Sal drops heavily into one of the green recliners in the pilots’ lounge, takes another sip from his cup, and calls to Red, “We playing Hearts tonight?”

It takes a few moments for Red to respond. He is busy informing the ramp squirrels which yellow bin of cargo goes to which aircraft and when all the cargo must be loaded for departure. “Yeah. That and a little Texas Hold’em. Gus still wants a chance to kick your tail after you walloped him yesterday,” Red guffaws.

Sal’s grin doesn’t reach his eyes. He’d rather be flying. Well, he thinks, a little sadly, at least the coffee and card games will help me stay awake. If only I was a flying squirrel! Being nocturnal would make this job so much easier!

His reverie is interrupted by Gus’ arrival. “You on standby tonight again, Sal?”

Sal nods once.

“Good. You’re going to owe me a whole bag of peanuts this time, buddy!” Gus settles onto one of the wooden stools and pulls out the deck with a flourish.

Sal sighs in resignation, pushes himself up from the recliner, and grumbles, “I’m going to need a little more coffee before I skin you, Gus. Deal ’em.”

The night passes slowly, painfully. When dawn finally arrives, Sal waves goodbye to his coworkers and makes his way back to his tree. As he curls up in his cozy nest and prepares for sleep, Sal fervently hopes that he won’t be on standby again tonight. He is rewarded with vivid dreams of exuberant, joyous flight through inky skies sprinkled with stars.

Guest Entries, Self Promotion, Short Stories

The Jacket

I’m a finalist! Check out all the entries here and don’t forget to vote for your favorite. I hope it’s me, but I’ll completely understand if it isn’t – the competition is fierce! And please be sure to visit the other writers and share the love. After all, the Beatles were pretty clear that “All You Need is Love.”

Peg-o-Leg's Ramblings

The finalists in The Jacket Writing Competition have been selected.

Boy, howdy this was tough!  I asked a distinguished panel of 3 judges to review the entries for me.  Our criteria was simple: we were looking for an interesting story, told well.  We had consensus on several of the entries, but were widely apart on others.   I debated having a top 10 list, but decided that many was too unwieldy.  In the end I had to resort to taking up strong drink to narrow the field to 6.

Entries are again presented in the order in which I received them.  The Polldaddy poll is below the last entry.  Please vote only once per day until the polls close next Friday, March 30th.

Thank you so much to all who submitted entries!  I hope you had fun – I know that I did.

**************************************************************

Name: She’s a Maineiac
Website: http://miraclemama.wordpress.com

Proceed Without Caution

“God,” he sighed…

View original post 2,054 more words

Musings, Pet Peeves, Short Stories

I am Werewolf – Hear Me Howl

“No…” I groan.  Doubled over in pain, I scurry frantically for the ladies’ restroom.  “Not now.  Not here!”  But it’s no use.  The transformation has begun.  The beast within, liberated from its bonds, is now free to wreak its horrific path of destruction, all while wearing my skin.  It is me.  And for a time, I am it – a monster.

I knew it was coming.  All the signs were there – erratic, dangerous mood swings, acne outbreaks on par with life-choking algae blooms, immeasurable fatigue, and an uncontrollable sprouting of hair in places not normally furry.  Ever since the tender age of 11 when my mother welcomed me into the pack, I have experienced the pain, humiliation, and utter helplessness of my metamorphosis into a savage fiend every single lunar month.

There was a time that it was manageable.  At great expense, I was able to obtain medication for my condition.  If taken every day, the pills would weaken the beast to the point that when it awoke each month, I had the strength to cage the monster.  It still raged within me, but it had no power to do more than slaver madly from its confines.  I remained human.

But those days have long since past.  Although not afflicted with my malady, those in power decided that the use of this miraculous medication was morally objectionable.  In 2012, they succeeded in outlawing it.  And so I am now – once again – completely at the mercy of the creature which I am doomed to become each and every month for the rest of my life.

Haggard from the pain, I returned to the boardroom from which I had, moments ago, hastily fled.  Noting my appearance, a man snickered, “What’s wrong?  Got your period?”  A wave of mean-spirited tittering coursed through the room, further agitating the furious beast within.

The ensuing massacre occurred only in my beleaguered mind.  This time.

Short Stories

The Jacket

The Jacket

Carol cheerfully unlocked the door to her beloved little cottage in the country. She had just returned from a pleasant shopping trip to the local village and was eager to review her purchases. Carol thought of herself as a woman who could spot a good deal a mile away and this trip had done nothing to change that opinion. While strolling through the shops, Carol had purchased a nice bottle of Burgundy, a darling green plaid blazer, and an antique coffee table – which would be delivered later today – all at a fraction of their value.

Closing the front door behind her, Carol sashayed into the kitchen – her favorite room in the house – and placed the bottle of wine carefully on the counter. Then, in one swift motion, she removed the jacket and carelessly dropped the bag it was in on a chair. Carol gently laid the jacket on the table, smoothed out the wrinkles, and stood back to admire it.

Her appreciative smile slowly gave way to a frown as she noticed a piece of paper peeking out from one of the front pockets. Yanking the slip from her blazer, Carol held it to the light and read aloud, “Tom Wojciechowski.”

Carol instantly felt ill. Panic seized her as she dropped the paper, stumbled backwards into the refrigerator, and slid to the floor in a heap. Kneeling, she pressed her hands to her head, hoping to dampen the pain drowning her consciousness.

Through the fog of fear, pain and shock, Carol heard a man’s voice, deep and sorrowful, say quietly, “I’m so sorry. The only way to free yourself of the accursed garment is for someone to say your name aloud in its presence. There is no other way. Godspeed.”

A few hours later, a young man from the antique store in town arrived at Carol’s home to deliver the table she had purchased that day. After knocking several times, he hesitantly opened the door and called out while stepping inside. No answer. He did a cursory check of the main floor and, finding nothing but an ugly green jacket in the kitchen, he shrugged and left the coffee table by the front door before returning to work. Had he examined the jacket more closely, he may have found the small slip of paper now bearing the name, “Carol Nowicki.”