Mid-Week Blues-Buster Week 51

Welcome to the Mid-Week Blues-Buster Flash Fiction Challenge, Week 51!

This is a flash fiction challenge.  The prompt is a song.  You are not required to write about or even mention the song.  It’s there only to get the ideas moving around in your brain pan.  If you want to write about the song (or the video- it’s all good here) go for it but don’t feel like you have to.

 The rules;

 500 words, but it’s a slushy 500, meaning you can go up to 700 or as low as 300.

 Post your entry right in the comments section of this post.

 MAKE SURE TO PUT YOUR TWITTER HANDLE NEXT TO YOUR WORD COUNT AT THE BOTTOM OF YOUR POST.  IF YOU’RE NOT ON TWITTER GIVE ME AN EMAIL ADDRESS OR SOME OTHER WAY TO GET A HOLD OF YOU!

 The challenge starts whenever I post this on Tuesday and ends at MIDNIGHT Pacific Time on Friday.  You read that right.  Pacific Time.

 Now, you’ll probably notice the absence of a photograph of the artist in this week’s post. This is not an oversight. It’s a conscious decision made as a result of horror stories I’ve heard from other bloggers, stories about overzealous copyright enforcement efforts.

Let me state right here and now that I fully support the rights of artists to receive credit and compensation for their work, but when it’s being used in a way that the user derives NO tangible gain from, monetary or otherwise, I just don’t see the harm in it. Still, I can’t afford to be sued so unless I happen to have photos of artists that I’ve personally taken there won’t be any more pictures posted here.

Anyway…

This week’s song prompt is one of my favorite tunes… a great track by Santana with a guest vocal by Everlast.

The tune is… “Put Your Lights On”.  Here’s the link; http://youtu.be/KCBS5EtszYI

This week’s Judge is the Mortuary Mama, the guru of Bullish Ink… Ruth Long!!!

The challenge opens the moment you read this post and runs until midnight PACIFIC TIME on Friday March 7th.

Now go write!!!

 

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Posted on March 4, 2014, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 26 Comments.

  1. The Face of Death

    I hid in the rubble of what used to be the local corner store. I sat there curled in as tight as I could get, hugging the wall, hoping against hope to just be invisible. Hoping that they would just keep moving. “Please…. Oh God, please let them keep moving.” I prayed as tears fell silently down my face.

    I gripped my crude blade, rusted and jagged tight in my hand. There was no way it would kill those things, but there was no way I was going to go down without a fight. I rested my head against the wall and held my breath.

    I held my breath and waited. Listened. And counted the seconds that passed by so slow I thought time had stopped.

    I heard a scraping sound come from the opposite side of the building, the beast was surely running its claws along the wall. No doubt playing with its food.

    I curled myself tighter and tried to camouflage myself with the wall. A sob almost escaped but I bit it back, biting my lip so hard that blood ran over my tongue. I clenched my eyes shut, tight against the world. Hoping that not seeing them would protect me. Wishing for a time long past when I believed that if I couldn’t see you then you couldn’t see me.

    But I knew it wasn’t true. I knew those creatures could hear me. I knew they were going to kill me, just like they killed my brother a week ago. He sacrificed himself to save me. I both loved and hated him for it. If he just let those things kill me then I would be away from this hell on earth. I would be in heaven with the rest of my family. Instead I live in fear every second of every day.

    Hiding. Running. Scavenging.

    The shuffling of feet against gravel made me wish I could stop my heart from beating. I heard their grunts as they communicated to each other, their breath was ragged and foul. I could smell them clear on the other side of the building. As the sounds drew closer I had the overwhelming urge to peak around the corner to see just how close to death I was.

    Luckily I fought temptation and instead focused on breathing even, like Kane taught me. I gripped my knife to my chest and prepared myself to charge.

    When a wail broke the silence and the beasts went scampering after a louder meal. I breathed a sigh of relief, thankful I was safe for one more day. I waited a count of ten before I even dared to move. I coaxed myself to look around the corner to make sure the coast was clear and came face to face with my dead brother.

    Word count: 473 words
    @y311er

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  2. “You need to get more sleep at night,” she leaned forward, propping her head on her hands, her elbows on the restaurant table.

    I sat there thinking, “Jesus, don’t say anything”, as I caught a good view right down the front of her shirt. Right between her knockers. The pattern of the lace on her pink bra revealed to my eyes. My fingers screaming, “Damn, I’d like to feel that lace!”, my mouth screaming, “Those sure would beat the hell out of a burger and fries!”, and my brain cells screaming, “She’ll slap your face across the room if you say or do anything related to what you’re eyeballs are drinking in!”

    It was one of those views that you get. It’s there, but only for a few heartbeats. And you never forget it. And you sit up late at night, wishing you could sleep instead of wondering how her knockers taste, and if she’d be upset if you spent an hour letting your fingers explore the lace on her bra instead of exploring her.

    “Yeah. I know.” I fell back to a safe answer. And safe behavior.

    She reached across the table, her fingers lacing through mine. Every nerve cell in my hand screaming, “God! I’m in heaven!” while I tried to decide if I should let my fingers move, or remain frozen, like cut from stone. And my brain cells screamed at me, “find a way to acknowledge her action, but don’t give any hint how damn good it feels!” and I wound up with my hand softly holding hers, and my fingers screaming how much they wanted more, and my brain cells directing traffic again, “Behave, you slime! She’s concerned for your well-being. Maintain self-control.”

    “What keeps you awake at night?” God, don’t look into her eyes! You look into her eyes, you get lost, and go stupid. And don’t look at her mouth either, ‘cause you’ll end up wondering what it tastes like, how it would feel to press her lips to yours, and to play exploratory games with tongues.

    I stared at the table, then at our hands on the table, “I just don’t sleep well.”

    “What do you think about?”

    “Stuff.” I picked up my soda with my free hand, and took a big chug, big enough the carbonation caused my throat to burn, before I set it down. I even took the time to set the glass down softly, so it made no sound as it touched the table. And I kept my fingers on it, drinking in the cold of the ice filled glass.

    What was I supposed to say? “I think about the things my body feels. And the things it wants to feel. About everything my fingers touch. My fingers never shut up. They feel the damn air as it moves past them. I can brush them endlessly, for hours, against velvet or terry cloth. And just be oblivious to everything else.”

    “Maybe you should talk to a doctor about it.” Damn her and her eyes. Blue, no less. Blue eyes. And there I was, staring right into them.

    My brain cells screamed, “Look away! Look away!” But I couldn’t. Any more than I could forget that view of her pink bra, and the valley between her knockers. And if I did manage to look away, I’d it wouldn’t make any difference, ‘cause I’d have spent hours that night staring at the ceiling of my room, remembering the exact shade of blue, and what it felt like when I finally slipped up and looked.

    I managed to break away, and look at the table again. Then at my soda. “Maybe.”

    And my brain cells screamed at me, “Find a way to get through this, and get back to work, so everything becomes safe again!”

    Then I answered, “But I think it’s just a phase. The time of year. It comes and goes.”

    That’s when she let go of my hand. And my fingers cried. They howled like little boys do when you take away their favorite thing. And she sat back up, and I caught one last glimpse of her chest.

    And the world was safe again.

    687 Words
    @LurchMunster

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  3. Whiskey and Self-Pity

    The hell of this moment was that she couldn’t stay drunk for more than about thirty minutes at a time and that took a monumental amount of whiskey. Lucy had been giving it the old college try though ever since Rick had freaked out when he found out about her transformation. That was right after she rescued a bunch of kids, killed her adopted brother and a good portion of his pack and proved to have some freaky heretofore unknown Were power that scared the shit out of everyone. That power was thwarting her efforts to get blind drunk. Sam and Miri had both given up for the time being, letting her drink her way through it.

    She heard a car door slam out front and looked up blearily as someone pulled the door of the screened in porch open. Greg Brice stepped in with an odd look on his face. Whatever.

    “What do you want Brice?”

    “A drink. From all accounts you purchased all the whiskey in the county so your porch is the only place a man can a drink right now.”

    “Well alright,” she snarled and reached down for an unopened bottle sitting in the case of booze next to her, “here, take a bottle and get the hell out of here.”

    He took the bottle, “Now Lucy you know I can’t very well walk the streets of town with an open container. I am nothing if not a law abiding citizen. Besides what would Mama-G say if I was caught drinkin’ in the daytime on the street?”

    “Um, the bottle isn’t open.”

    His eyebrows shot up in surprise, “Well I’ll be danged, you’re right.” Then he quickly twisted off the top and chugged down a healthy amount of whiskey. “WHOOOOOOEEEEEE! Now THAT is some fine gulpin’ whiskey you got there darlin’. I thank you. But now the bottle is open and I have started drinkin’ so I’m afraid I’ll have stay here on your porch for a spell.”

    Lucy rolled her eyes, “A ‘spell’? Who the hell are you? Rhett Butler?”

    “Don’t disparage my colorful downhome manner of speaking. I am a true son of Levy County Florida. My grandmother has a goofy nickname, I fry mullet in a coffee can on my back porch and I have killed snakes in my yard with a hoe.” Greg sat down in the rocking chair next Lucy and took another hit off the bottle, though a much more conservative one this time.

    Lucy almost did a spit take on the mention of yards, hoes and snakes.

    “Greg you live with Mama-G and her “yard” is about five acres of perfectly manicured grounds. If you took a hoe to any part of it, snake or no snake, she would tan your hide.”

    “Tan my hide? Tan my hide? Now who do you think you are? Some escapee from the Ya-Ya Sisterhood?”

    Suddenly the little bit of humor that had started to animate Lucy’s face evaporated as she took another hard pull from her bottle, “Naw. The Ya-Ya’s don’t let murdering monsters join their little afternoon bourbon parties.”

    Greg tilted his head to the side and squinted at her without saying anything, just stared until Lucy started to get pissed off.

    “WHAT?”

    Greg shrugged, “I was trying to see if the self-pity was actually going to seep out of your pores along with the booze.”

    Lucy’s eyes filled with tears and she gasped, “Fuck you Brice.”

    Greg was on his feet jerking her to her feet with his hands on either side of her head, so close she could smell the whiskey but under that she smelled the scent of his intense fear and worry.

    He glared into her eyes, “I am not having any more of this woman. I have stood by while you dated assholes, while you dated decent guys I was terrified would take you away, while you battled your enemies both actual and imagined and while you forged yourself into a diamond hard warrior. But I won’t stand by while you hate yourself. You will NOT do that to the woman I love.” With that he kissed her, hard, and changed everything.

    @MissBliss
    Words: 699

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  4. “Hey buddy, spare a buck?”
    I didn’t look up, just dug deep into the pocket where I used to keep my keys. The single dollar bill looked grey in the green light of the neon sign. It felt heavy like old cloth. I stuffed it back down and said “No.”
    “Oh com’on, all I need. . .”
    I looked up this time. My eyes met his and he stopped as if the reflection of green neon in my eyes spelled – Shut the Fuck Up – instead of s’atiragraM.
    “I said no.” My weight relaxed back into the wrought iron security door of the stairwell. Some bluesy guitar chord dangled from the bar room above Margarita’s and for a moment – only a moment – I felt the urge to swing back and forth on the gate, in time to the music. My fingers moved the gate three inches both directions. It creaked.
    “Hey,” I said, feeling the ink of my tattoo move up my arm, a grip warning me not to do what I was about to do. “What you need is to go home.”
    “Funny,” said the hobo, beggar, residentially challenged – whatever the PC word of the day was.
    “I’m serious.”
    “In case you hadn’t noticed, I ain’t essactly got a home.”
    “You did,” I said. “And you need to go there NOW.” I closed my eyes, fighting back against the darkness. “They’re there and they’re going to take her if you’re not there to stop them.”
    “What the hell you. . .”
    I couldn’t explain it if I wanted to. The tat that used to not be there, tightened it’s grip. None of it scared me anymore. It just happened . . .
    “Amy. Your daughter. She needs you. . . NOW!” Even in the green light, I could see his face go white. He was still running when he turned a corner and I lost sight of him. My arm felt better as I drew my hand from my pocket. My fingers rubbed back and forth across the heavy hundred dollar bill. Like I said, I can’t explain it. The song ended, I think it was Santana and I could hear the cue ball as it rolled down the felt tapping its target, the number six ball, I think. Or maybe, it was just the light.
    I closed my eyes and leaned against the gate.

    jlockett

    396 words

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  5. All Ye Sinners

    The tavern was on the disreputable side of run-down. That was to be expected since it was so far from the major trade routes. Aithan didn’t mind though, he felt more at home ministering here than in the lavish marble palaces of the cities. He had been doing the work of the Gods for the best part of a century, and it certainly showed. Only a few whipsy tufts clung to his pate and his right eye was milky with cataracts. The other was disconcertingly blue, like a nostalgic summer sky from your childhood. They were deeply entrenched within wrinkles, paradoxically carved by both a stern visage and frequent laughter. He smiled to himself as he finished the bowl of broth before him, and then called for another beer. Mean as this inn was, it would be a fine place to serve Tai, the God of Remorse.

    As the evening wore on and the other patrons became more raucous, Aithan decided it was time to start the service. Doddering over to settle his bill, he fumbled his purse before staring myopically at the coins within. He tapped his way out of the bar leaning heavily on his staff.. He’d barely gone a dozen paces when he heard the door slam behind him. A couple of the surlier patrons quickly caught up to him, smiling in a way that carried no warmth.

    “Father, a moment of your time, please!” one said, taking hold of his arm.
    “Mmmm… a moment, mmmm…” Aithan said, nodding his head a few times. He stopped walking, and turned slightly towards the fellow on his left. Cupping his hand round his ear, he spoke again. “Mmm… speak up, my son! What ails you?”
    “We’re poor, father. Mighty poor! Perhaps you’d be kind enough to give us alms?” he said, fingering his dagger meaningfully.
    A snigger behind him.
    “Yeh father, mighty poor! I’m guessing a man of the Gods like yerself would feel right blessed giving us all your money as alms. A blessing for all of us, and best all round.”
    “Mmm… blessings…” Aithan began. Then in an instant his visage flipped from that of a kindly old fool to a rictus of fury. His raised arm scythed in a vicious arc, catching the would-be brigand in the temple. The man reeled away cursing extravagantly. Aithan spun round, his staff sweeping the legs out from first one then the other, their knives clattering away. A few quick blows to the pair of them and the were cowed and bloody.

    Reaching into his robes, the priest produced a small pouch. He took a pinch of incense and smeared it liberally on a potsherd before flinging it on the ground and invoking Tai’s name. The cries of his “assailants” now magically muffled, Aithan set to work. Methodically he hit them with his staff, smashing finger bones and causing multiple fractures in their legs. When he was satisfied the damage would be beyond the healing even of an acolyte of Tuan, Aithan ceased the sermon. His Lord’s work done, Aithan wiped the blood off his steel shod staff and set it ringing against the cobblestones in counterpoint to the psalm he was belting out in closing. Let them in the cities have their indulgences and silks. He served the Lord of Remorse by being the cause, not remedy.

    @Snellopy
    558

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  6. Dark Silence
    I hear it all, through the paper thin walls of this shoddy apartment; the crying, the sex, the fights, the loving, the hating. Some nights I twist my pillow around my head to block it out. I hear when number four sneaks over to number seven while the husband is out. I hear when the girl at the top of the stairs is paying her rent with the thump, thump, thump of her bedhead. I hear the kids in eight begging their mother but she is out cold. There are only three noises that woman makes; screaming, snoring or puking and I hear when her latest man uses them all for punching bags. I hear the hacking cough from upstairs and the cats wailing in the alley. I hear the silence from the basement. It shouldn’t be silent. My imagination plays tricks with that silence and some nights I leave my lights on. That apartment is under mine and I notice more at night when I am in my bed.
    Most nights the noises are a background susurration that lulls me to sleep. Like the railway thundering past the building every twenty minutes and the garbage truck clashing metal and scattering vermin, they are environmental noise that simply fades into the region of only noticing when it stops. Like the basement.
    I met the girl on the landing. She was skinny and too young to be that old. This place does that. She said she was frightened of the silent basement.
    People don’t usually say much in this place, it isn’t safe to make eye contact so it struck me as odd she would say a whole thing like that. Like we had some connection and I found myself agreeing.
    I noticed when the cats stopped. I noticed when the kids stopped begging. Some fool thing inside me made me check. The oldest kid opened the door as far as the chain. She said they were all scared of the silence. Her voice was a whisper. “Can you check Mister?”
    The girl at the top of the stairs was out on the landing. The old man with the cough stood beside her in a threadbare bathrobe. Their eyes, so old and defeated, even the kids, they looked at me like I might do something. Deep in some dark primordial centre of me something stirred.
    “I’ll check, keep the doors locked and the lights on.”
    Brave isn’t my thing. Avoiding is my thing. I don’t have the balls for confrontations. I don’t know what is down there and my empty guts, churns. I look back at the kid peering past the chain. Her eyes have a spark of something. It took me a second to recognise it. It made me straighten my skinny shoulders and lift my unshaved chin. I give her the thumbs up.
    The torch from my place is old, unreliable and heavy. I hesitate on the top of the basement stairs.
    “God don’t let me lose my nerve.” I don’t want to disappoint the kid.
    The watery light in the entry hall spills weakly onto the broken tiles below, exhausting itself before reaching the basement stairs. I descend into the darkness. 533
    @cc_lark

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  7. Angel of Enlightenment

    He lay in the muggy darkness of the night, trying to center himself to no avail. Sighing deeply, he swung his legs over the side of the uncomfortable bed and sat, in silence, waiting for the waves of disorientation to pass.

    A trembling hand snagged the brown prescription bottle off the nightstand and he shook it, listening to the rattle of the shiny capsules contained therein. Whatever surcease he might find from his internal unrest, he knew the pills were, most definitely, incapable of providing such. They placed him into a false, contrived state of mind where he was incapable of forming original or coherent thoughts. Most disturbing of all was the manner by which they denied him the ability to hear Her voice.

    She had first spoken to him while he was still a prisoner of the State. Though he was required to participate in counselling and submit to the doctors and psychologists, they could not accomplish what only She could. Her’s was the voice of hope, of encouragement, of self-worth and purpose. She was the bastion of stability and sanity he so desperately needed.

    He was convinced She was an angel. Whether a servant of Allah, or the Almighty, of the Buddha or of Vishnu he could not say, for She spoke from all of their precepts. She whispered he must do as the doctors required, must say that which they wished to hear, and must act as they intended if he were to ever be free to pursue any sort of life. Thus, he had done as She asked when he felt no compunction to comply with the voice of any other.

    His freedom had been achieved and perhaps that was worse than his physical imprisonment, he mused. Friendless, adrift, devoid of focus, he despaired. It was during those first dark days, when he needed her most, his angel had not spoken to him. He discovered it was the damnable pills that silenced her and so, despite his promises to the contrary, he had ceased to take them. Four long and agonizing days later, his system was purged enough of the medicinal poisons for him to again hear Her.

    In the intervening weeks, he listened to Her every word, hanging on the concepts and ideas she spun forth for him. Enthralled…enraptured by the truth and the clarity of her words, he could do little else. She had spoken to him of the purpose only alluded to during his imprisonment and tonight he was to achieve that purpose. She crooned comforting words into his jumbled mind that set him to rights at last. An hour later, he walked the gritty streets on a quest of enlightenment and fulfillment to make Her proud of his progress towards perfection.

    The bar was crowded on this particular night. Soulful music emanated from the stage as the band played to the masses. Taking a seat in the darkened comfort of the corner, he set his backpack on the floor beneath the table. Drinking from the beer he was constrained to purchase, his eyes scanned the motley assemblage of humanity that filled the room. They were every bit as damaged, imperfect and unsound as the world told him he was and yet, they had companionship, acceptance, and approbation. It was…wrong for things to be so.

    Their souls were dark. Their souls were grimy and their minds filled with evil and unwholesome influences. Their abhorrent natures might be concealed by toned and tattooed flesh encased in designer clothing and contrived costumes but the truth could not be so easily disguised. These were the pretenders…the defilers…the diseased and discordant. She spoke in his mind of what he must do to free them…to empower them to be more than they were.

    Nodding in agreement to Her, he reached into his backpack and depressed the large button on the side of the device he had constructed with her guidance. The timer lit up and began to count backwards from 300. Sitting in that noisesome place, surrounded by that repellant mass of flawed beings, he heard nothing but Her voice singing to him as he awaited the end of their lives and the beginning of whatever came after….this.

    700 words @klingorengi

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  8. Catherine Connolly

    Put Your Lights On

    Put your lights on. Kit hears the words; knows what they mean. It is time now, more than, to take the steps to ensure their safety. The little ones race to light the wick; to set the flame ablaze. They think it a game; too young yet to understand what it means to sing their song; what lies waiting, beyond, in the darkness. Kit has learned to fear the shadows; what they may hide amongst them. She has heard the stories – words whispered only during daylight and then only in passing.

    They have all suffered losses. Disappearances were many before it became apparent what was happening. Before the darkness living within those it had captured surfaced, again and again, to feed for its self-serving purpose – to ravage those whom the vessels remaining had once loved and now lost completely, having succumbed.

    Their numbers are legion. Kit refuses to consider it, to confront the thought head on. Not with the darkness surrounding them; not now, tonight. Instead lets the light shine, bright and steady. Focuses on it, to pass through the night.

    They all have their tricks; tried and tested. Some sing the song, defiant. Their prayer in a world where bravado is what is left when daylight fades and the community huddles in corners, keeping those left close about them through the twilight hours. Until they emerge from lamp light, blinking, to see who is still with them. How many are left. To mark the losses.

    No matter how they try, there are always the missing, though the lights glow, night after night. They ignore that too – focus on the safe; fight off the fear. Leave the words unspoken. The doubt which is the lesser darkness within them all, though they are the sane amongst those who have fallen to the greater, ever looming one. The one from which there is no returning. It won’t help any of them when all of their attempts to combat it have proven ineffective. They try, too, not to scare the children; to remind them of the monsters they live among now that the world is changed and life is lived differently. They are closeted and cossetted enough when the lights go out.

    Others pray to the gods of the world they have left behind. Any of them. All of them. Kit has seen the signs on venturing out to scavenge, daubed on brickwork, beyond their walls. Seeking salvation for the sinners, for themselves; believing what has happened is a punishment. She is unsure what exactly for, given all are being dealt the same hand, failings great or small alike. She suspects they don’t either, though they search for meaning buried beneath the madness which is their day to day. Perhaps the quest acts as distraction, perhaps it serves as comfort. Whatever works, as they serve their time out, to get them through both day and night.

    Occasionally it is possible to hear the refrain from beyond their own walls, as souls seek solace to drown out the silence. Put your lights on. Sometimes it echoes through the surrounding darkness, as others join the chorus, add soprano, treble, bass or alto to the tune. Occasionally, some can even sing. Still, that isn’t what matters. The words speak for themselves; hold their own strength. The joinder helps them hold their nerve. Remind them they are not alone, in amongst the darkness, for what is worth. Some nights, it is all there is. On those nights, it is everything.

    Still, Kit wonders how they will fare when they run out of candles, run low on oil. Better not to think of it, not now; to think of the light, rather than the darkness which will follow, when the light fades away.

    625 words @FallIntoFiction

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  9. THIS ENTRY IS INELIGIBLE!!! VERY, VERY INELIGIBLE!!!

    This is a snippet from a serial I wrote last year. This week’s song prompt was the backdrop for it…
    So it’s not completely out of context– our hero, Matty, has just been rescued from a basement torture chamber somewhere in Mexico by the femme fatal (no, I don’t mean, fatale… I mean fatal, as in she’s a very dangerous individual), Pilar. He’s badly cut up and, after having his wounds treated, has a very strange dream. The scene opens as he wakes up…

    Pilar shook me awake.
    “Mateo,” she growled. “Mateo… Where are you, Mateo?”
    I sat up in the bed.
    She rested her hand on my bare shoulder and watched my face while my eyes adjusted to the clean, white light.
    The bandages around her wrists brought it all back, all at once.
    I took some deep breaths to bring my heart rate down.
    The sunlight coming in from the open window next to the bed made the room glow.
    I put my hand down over hers.
    “I’m right here, Pilar. I’m right here.”
    “You lost a day, Mateo. More than a day. Thirty-six hours.”
    It felt like it. I was sore, top to bottom, with a pounding headache and a case of dry mouth so bad it burned.
    Pilar sat next to me on the bed, legs stretched out in front of her, in a simple off-white sun dress.
    “What do you remember?”
    I took a long drink of the horchata she had me mainlining and thought it over. The cinnamon-heavy drink felt wonderful on my throat.
    “We were in your pal’s shop– the curandero?”
    “Aurelio.”
    “Right. Aurelio. I remember lying down on his cot and him kneeling down to check out my wounds. Not much after that.”
    She refilled my glass and stared at me until I drank some more.
    “I remember looking for you but you weren’t there.”
    “Yes. There were things that needed to be done. People I needed to contact. We could not leave it as it was.”
    I nodded and finished my horchata.
    Pilar moved to pour me more.
    “Give it a rest, okey? I drink any more of this stuff I’m gonna turn into a grain of rice. It is rice, isn’t it?”
    “Yes, Mateo. Rice, water, sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla.”
    She took the glass from me and put it on the nightstand.
    “That’s all I’ve got,” I said. “Don’t remember a thing between Aurelio’s and waking up here.”
    I laid back and got my first real look at the room, a good-sized bedroom with white walls, a white ceiling, and a stone floor covered in spots with off-white woven throw rugs.
    Someone had pulled the white curtains back from the window to let the breeze in.
    “Did you dream?” she asked.
    “Yeah. Quite a trip.”
    “Where did you go?”
    “You don’t wanna know.”
    “If I did not want to know I would not have asked.”
    I thought about it for a second.
    “I went home.”
    Pilar nodded and left it at that. I don’t know if it was my voice or my face that did the trick.
    “Some of your cuts were deeper than we thought they were. And they were very dirty. Aurelio knew how painful it was going to be to get them clean and cared for so he gave you something to… take you away from it while he worked. It affects some people more than others.”
    “Just lucky I guess.”
    “Here,” she said. “I’ll show you.”
    She drew the sheet down, baring my naked body down past my hip.
    I grabbed onto the sheet and looked at her.
    Her upper lip curled and she grinned.
    “You Americans, always bragging about your free society, yet you’re all so… delicate where the human body is concerned.”
    The gauntlet had been thrown. I felt honor bound to pick it up.
    I smiled and raised my hands in silent surrender.
    She grinned some more and ran her fingertips across my ribcage.
    “These were the worst,” she began. “Not a lot of protection. He nicked bone here. I’m afraid they’re going to hurt for some time.”
    I nodded, transfixed by the play of her fingers on my skin.
    They danced down my abdomen.
    “These are nothing. He meant to scare you with these.”
    “It worked.”
    She smiled at me.
    “A strong man can admit to fear without shame.”
    “I don’t know about that. Fear doesn’t even begin to cover it.”
    She trailed the tip of one index finger down to my hip.
    “This was one of the deepest,” she whispered. “It must have hurt a great deal.”
    “It did.” I whispered back.
    I watched her face, in profile, while her hands lingered over each of my wounds. The soft sunlight gave her dark hair highlights. I loved the way it fell over the side of her face as she leaned down to inspect Aurelio’s stitch-work.
    I got a good look at the bruise under her eye when she turned her head to look out the window.
    “I saw your face when Enrique brought me in,” she said. “You would have killed Beau yourself if you were free to.”
    “Any man would’ve.”
    “I do not believe that is true.”
    She turned back to face me.
    I stroked her damaged cheek with the back of my hand. Our eyes met. Neither of us blinked.
    She allowed me to draw her closer.
    “Do you think this is wise?” she asked as she slid under the sheet.
    “Wisdom’s overrated, Pilar.”
    She shot me a grin that made my heart seize up, then pushed me back against the headboard and straddled me.
    “I warn you, Mateo,” she said. “In your present condition I might just kill you.”
    She grabbed me by the shoulders and kissed me, a warrior’s kiss. Savage. Nothing held back. We came together in a crush of lips and teeth and tongues. This was release, raw and feral.
    The look on her face promised no quarter.
    Didn’t want any.

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  10. Monster Under My Bed

    The guitar starts, slow and haunting. The bar is packed with milling, moving bodies. She wonders how many are as lost as she is, as alone even in this crowded place. Sitting on a wobbly barstool at the bar that has seen infinitely better days, she runs her slender fingers over the pitted wood. The bartender walks over, looks through her and walks away again. She turns and faces the crowd, watching them dance to the rhythms that fill the air, from guitar, keyboard and voice combined. Her eyes meet those of a blonde dancing tightly with her boy-toy, and she sees such emptiness in them, it makes her heart contract.

    Why did he whisper to her to come to this shabby place? Misery, pain, sorrow and desperation all waft through the air. She feels grimy from all the negative emotion touching her skin and tiptoeing along her nerve endings. She wants to leave, but she can’t. Something is holding her here. The music wraps around her, embracing her. She hears dark, rough vocals and they touch her deeply, in a way she can’t explain.

    “Monster under my bed….”

    Yes, she thinks, he is. Whispering to her in the dark, every night. She fears him and she doesn’t. She wants to see him and she doesn’t. She wants to be free of him…and she doesn’t. She runs a hand nervously through her short dark hair and then her eyes meet his. The shock of recognition is instantaneous, but she’s never seen him before tonight. His lips close to the microphone, he’s dazzling in a dark and somewhat scary sort of way. He recognizes her as well, but other than his direct gaze into her eyes, he doesn’t show it at all. Just keeps singing.

    She can’t break the gaze, can’t turn away, and now she knows why she is here tonight. She is the key. After he finishes his set, he will come to her and she will go with him to her room and he will be the conduit for the being that lives beneath her bed. Then…then all HELL will break lose.

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  11. @Angelique_Rider
    354 words {including title}

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  12. I dreaded birthdays, especially the part where I had to pretend like I didn’t hate myself or, really, everyone else, long enough to listen to off-key renditions of ‘Happy Birthday’ and eat crappy Wal-Mart cake and open presents that showed that, once again, no one I knew had even the vaguest understanding of who I was or what I liked. But it was even more work to fend off the advances of the zombie hordes of family members and coworkers and the odd passer-by than it was to endure the socialization, get it over with, and find my way back to the only place in the world that made sense to me.

    My sister tried hard, no one could deny that. She bought more and more gifts each year, determined to find something that struck a chord with me, but I didn’t want the new hot album. Or tickets to a movie. Or fashionable clothes. Or, as she did for my thirtieth last year – a trip to Tokyo. Tokyo. Me. As if I didn’t have enough trouble avoiding people in stinking Tacoma, she wanted me to hang around with, what, a hundred million people crammed into a city the size of a phone booth?

    It took six months for her to speak to me again, and that was just “your car is parked behind mine” when I was enduring Thanksgiving. I shuddered at the thought of the confrontation we’d have this year. I almost didn’t go.

    Most of the family had learned a lesson from last year, and stuck to the simple things. Gift cards. Cash. Far Side birthday cards bought at Target on the way to the restaurant. But Annie, she still had a box. Not even wrapped, a box from some internet catalog company. The table grew silent as I slipped my finger through the tape and popped it open. Clothing, obviously, but nothing fashionable – no sweaters or khakis or loafers. Just a plain brown t-shirt with the words “I do whatever the voices in my head tell me to do” printed on it.

    I looked at Annie, and for the first time in years, I smiled at a gift. She smiled back, sweet, innocent, her hopes answered. I knew what she wanted, and I drew her in for a hug. That was when I decided I’d save her for last. The voices didn’t come from inside my head, I knew that now, and the things under the bed would have the most wonderful time watching me devour her brains.

    422 words
    @drmagoo

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  13. Angel of Raptors

    @BryantheTinker, 583 words

    “Can anyone read me? If anyone can hear this, put your lights on.”

    The sleek black jet thundered overhead, clawing through the night sky on a pair of Rolls Royce engines. Stitched across the fuselage, bullet holes crisscross into a fractal of death. A gaping wound on the side of the wounded fighter bleeds thick smoke, blocking the stars above. Beneath a canopy etched with cracks, the pilot’s black leather gloves creak with the forceful grip on the controls. Otherwise impeccable in a fitted uniform jacket, the pilot’s side is covered in a once white bandage.

    “This is Raptor 7, coming in on a one way trip, and I don’t want to hit anyone.” Through gritted teeth, the strained voice is a far cry from the musical lilt that usually accompanies the brown curls working their way free from the woman’s helmet. The rest of the wounded flight team, crumpled on the floor, groans in agony with every shudder of the dying plane. Though busy with the controls, the pilot considers the checklist of the mission once again, looking for a missed step. Her team had performed perfectly, though, and she would be damned if she’d let them down. She only had one job, they always said: take them up, and then take them home. That’s exactly what she is going to do tonight.

    The blackouts were making it very difficult to get home, though. All she needs is 2 lights, something for a reference, to see the ground and line up her approach. Nothing shines, though. Altitude was easy, flying over the Channel. Waves shine beneath the plane, enough to gauge the ground. Just high enough to clear the cliffs, but low enough to reach out and pluck a spring blossom from a cherry tree. The jostling of the plane shakes loose a locket from around her neck. “Dammit, Michael, not now. If you distract me, I’ll never live long enough to come find you.”

    There is an old darkness inside her nearly as impenetrable as the one she is flying through, and it grows for a moment, fueled by guilt. It was impossible to know whether her lover would have made it back from his last mission if she hadn’t broken things off with him. Also, it mattered very little in this moment. With flames dancing along the wings of the plane like ghosts or angels, there wasn’t any time for mourning or pining.

    Suddenly, the trees below fall behind, and a smooth flat piece of ground opens up. With a familiar flick of her wrist, she sets the plane down on the landing strip. As it rolls to a stop, her hands grip the controls fiercely. She is still sitting in the pilot’s seat when the medics get to the cockpit, and they have to pry her hands free to lower her down onto a waiting stretcher, the last off the plane.

    As they wheel her to the infirmary, the Base Commander steps up next to her. “How’d you make that landing?”

    “Not sure. It was like there was an angel with her hand on my hand at the end.” The pilot coughs from speaking, and grimaces the pain of her injury.

    “Could be. More likely, muscle memory. Some of Section’s latest training focuses on it, but not everyone is a good fit. Maybe after you’re recovered, you’d be a good candidate for the training.”

    “Whatever you say, Sir. That’d be something to do till they get my Raptor fixed.”

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  14. Thank you for providing these prompts. I didn’t share my work because its part of my group’s crazy little serial fan fiction crossover universe, and it would only confuse people. But I wanted to let you know, for what its worth, that Team Netherworld appreciates these prompts!

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  1. Pingback: Mid Week Blues Buster, week 51 | Project Gemini

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