Mid-Week Blues-Buster Week 2.40
Welcome to the Mid-Week Blues-Buster Flash Fiction Challenge, Year 2, Week 40.
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.
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.
This week’s prompt is provided by the late, great, self-identified, “Bluesologist”… Gil Scott-Heron.
The tune is, “Me and the Devil”.
Here’s the link; http://youtu.be/86ybKWq3MWI
This week’s Judge is a legend of the flash fiction circuit. Say hello to… Mark Ethridge!
The challenge opens the moment you read this post and runs through MIDNIGHT PACIFIC TIME on Friday March 6th.
Now… Go write!!!!
Posted on March 3, 2015, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.
Clay knew it was wrong. He had a conscious. Contrary to popular belief, most murderers did. He wasn’t an exception. When he’d gone to her house, the painted lips had disgusted him. The swirling vortex of anger slammed into him like a car slamming straight into a brick wall.
He had met her at the park, playing Frisbee. Picnic basket filled to the brim with pork rinds. When he’d seen her face, so innocent, so young, he thought he could be with her. He thought he could change. He imagined kissing her lips, so sweet and full of promise. He imagined rubbing his hands down her body, but somewhere in the back of his mind was that nagging voice of reality: she’s your next victim.
He was standing in the bus line now, and looking down at his hands—blood red in the light. Pick up your life, move everything, start again somewhere else. A rebirth. A resurrection. He was renewed after each kill. He would stand over their bodies and clean them, and in the process he became a newborn babe, a piece of clay waiting to be formed.
When he’d shown up at Georgette’s apartment, he’d expected her to be wearing the same school girl dress she’d had on in the park. But her face was made up like a clown. Red rouge smeared across her cheeks like the sign of the devil. He hadn’t let on the boiling rage he felt. He hid it deep down, as he kissed her cheeks, disgusted by the waxiness coating her lips. He unzipped her immodest dress, a slit up the side showed too much of her leg. She was not who he thought she was.
He pushed himself into her, and then the rage hit, and with one twist of the neck her head lolled to the side like a ragdoll’s. He zipped up his pants, and spit on her face as he did to all of his victims. The knife came out of his back pocket, and with a quick flick of his hand he sliced off an ear. He went to her kitchen, glancing at pictures of her youth, all smiles next to her friends, hiding the whore she was. The devil takes on many forms. He found a soft kitchen towel, then he raided her bathroom for soap, and he took a bucket full of water. First, he wiped the lipstick off her mouth, the red of it staining the towel like the blood on the sheet. Then he washed her whole body, careful to scrub behind the remaining ear. She looked peaceful and innocent lying there, the way she was supposed to be in the first place.
When he finished, he wiped off all the fingerprints. He put his token into a Ziploc baggy and slid it into his Jansport book bag.
At home, he removed the ear and he whispered sweet nothings into it. You are perfectly formed. He slid it into a jar of formaldehyde, and then packed up his belongings, including the thirteen other ears he had hidden in the air duct in the wall.
A new place. A new life. Another Georgette, but maybe this one would be innocent and free from sin, and he wouldn’t have to fill another jar.
Word count 323
I hated him at first
rage so violent I could burst
but then I realized it was her
flaunting, in heat, like a low down cur
the devil took possession of her soul
she paid for it collecting his dues our role
Provocatively leaning across him
he indulging her every whim
I at one time liked his loving demonstrations
now they only cause me frustration
Her crying didn’t last long
my hatred grew strong
The first time he asked me to photograph
I thought it would be for a laugh
she became our possession
new ways to play our obsession
I turned into a disciple of Satan
her face I’m prettily painting
He never hits me any more
so I let him have his little whore
her real Daddy I left
boredom felt like a life theft
now I wish I could go back
of regret and self-pity I have no lack
I married new daddy quickly
new daddy died enjoying my little girl
my emotions in a whirl
at her I began to spit
easier after the first hit
She was getting too old
his actions getting more bold
she was starting to hide
knowledge growing inside
I poisoned his food with a smile
bugger took a while
Fiona screamed when he never moved
a heart attack I had to prove
I can’t remember when I loved my daughter
I certainly don’t treat her like I oughta
I’ve had to hit her yet again
so many bleeding questions for ten
Sometimes her glances make me want to die
but she’ll never, ever, see me cry
I accepted my badness
I’ll say its madness
she’ll never ever forgive
and with that fact I have to live
I no longer look in the mirror
my reflection I fear
I live on a diet of rage
makes me look my age
my savior vodka and coke
better than any bleeding bloke
“My Own Enemy”
Trigger Warning: Addiction & Domestic Violence
Eva felt the unforgiving, overcast light permeate through the curtains before violently awakening, barely making it to the porcelain bowl to wretch up the remnants of the previous night.
She should know better than to mix tequila and vodka; it felt like Mexico and Russia were having an agave/potato war in her belly.
Washing her face and rinsing her mouth, Eva flexed her fingers, and her knuckles ached with new but already purpling bruises.
She gasped with horror and bit back tears before trying to find anything of herself she recognized in the stained mirror above the sink. The stranger peering back at her had a gaunt, pale face, and her dark eyes looked glassy and sunken like a shoe print on muddy graveyard sod.
“Fuck,” she fisted her hands into her limp, raven hair, “Not again,” she quietly mumbled a cry.
As usual, memories of what she’d done were dim, and last night was another unaccounted period of time for which she was still accountable and inevitably felt shitty for.
Covering her mouth, she clamped her teeth into her fist to keep from hollering. It was as if something or someone hijacked her body shoving her to impotently watch the action from the sidelines. Everything was fuzzy, and she’d claw and scream from the inside with little influence on the demon possessing and controlling the outcome.
“But it’s still my fault,” she reminded herself.
The familiar dread of facing consequences reared up inside of her, and she did not want to go into the bedroom to assess the damage like so many times before. Her apprehension made her feel like a child approaching a loved one in a coffin.
Eva hated herself for the things she did and wished she could exorcise the anger and the pain that engulfed her like flames that burnt the ones she claimed to love.
With a trembling hand on the doorknob, she opened the door and gingerly approached the slumped, cowering mound on the bed. Slowly, she knelt down on the carpet near the edge of the bed and abruptly shuddered when she saw her lover’s boyish face with a blossoming bruise on his cheek.
Her first instinct was to bring her open hand up to caress and soothe, but the marks on her knuckles reminded her that she had been the one who had marred his face with fists that no one deserved.
The tears Eva had been holding back unleashed themselves in torrents as she collapsed on the floor with unuttered apologizes.
He’d forgive her; he always did, but how would she forgive herself?
432 words @skarlitsunrise
Dancing With The Devil
I stared out at the city over my boots kicked up on the wrought iron railing of our balcony. The glass sliding door skritched open and Cara stepped out with two beers.
“Here. Girl you got those ghosty eyes again. What gives?”
“He’s here. I don’t know how that fucker always finds me but I can feel it in my bones. He’s here and he’s looking for me.”
“Come on…how can that be? We’ve been here two years now and nothing. You don’t look the same and the only tie you had to New York was me and I’m right here with you. Something else must have your radar buzzing.”
I closed my eyes as I took a swig from the beer. So that’s how it was. He’d somehow found Cara and backed her into a corner. Or maybe she just gave me up for money. That’s what most people did. I hoped it wasn’t money. I could understand fear, I could understand being threatened…but betrayal for something as petty as money always hurt worst of all. Cara leaned over the railing with the beer bottle dangling from her hand. She hung her head and sighed.
“Yep. What did he offer you?”
“The lives of my nieces.” She turned her back to the railing and finally looked me in the eye. “I didn’t know what to do Soph. Honestly I sort of thought you were just paranoid all this time but now…I’m sorry.” She gulped down some more beer and started back into our apartment. I put out my hand to stop her.
“Cara, first off, it’s OK. I know better than anyone how scary that bastard is. Second off, you should pack up and head to wherever your nieces are to make sure they’re ok and on your way there, forget you ever knew me.” She sucked in a breath as though I’ve punched her, eyes filling with tears. I stand up fast and pull her in for a hard hug.
“No, no sweetie I don’t mean that in a bad way. You need to get away from me because I’m a danger. As long as that fucker is hunting me anyone standing too close is gonna get hurt.” She gave me a quick squeeze and then moved off into the living room.
Looking out over the Jacaranda lined street I decided maybe it was time I stopped running from Lu. He hadn’t let up in 17 years so maybe it was time to turn the tables. I felt something settle down deep inside me at that thought.
Yeah. Fuck him.
The Devil wanted to dance with me? Fine.
But Hell better get ready.
Because from now, I lead.
Words: 452 not including title
We Are We
The night calls to us. Flashes of light pierce the darkness. Faces pass by, some old, some young, some bitter, some full of hope, some with dead eyes. We move through the shadows, watching, ascertaining, waiting for a perfect moment, dark skin painted with pain and promise. Every person we see is waiting for something, even if they don’t know it. Sometimes they’re waiting for us. We move out on feet, on wheels, parting the crowds, but untouched. We never see him, but he always walks in our midst, beside us. When the right person meets us at the right time, we hear him whisper and we act. Afterwards, everyone is changed, sometimes for the better.
We leave our artwork behind, on the walls, on the streets, on the sidewalks and floorboards. He applauds silently at each new creation and we thrill to his praise, but never smile. The feeling is too deep for that. When eyes close forever, those are the most perfect works. We have heard the laughter, the cries, the screams after our work is complete, and we drink it all down. Every sound, every emotion, strengthens us and bonds us together more tightly with him.
Some of us were just kids when we found him; others older. No matter how young or old we were, we are all the same now, even in our individuality. He has brought us to depths and heights we could never have reached on our own, and we thank him and one another for that. Our place is wherever we are. We find our home in our hearts and each other.
Music fills the night and we follow the siren song. The old man looks up into our eyes, no expression on his face. He could be a father to any of us; we could be him one day. The snick of a blade underscores the melody floating around us all. Sharp movement, a flick of the wrist, and still he sits, staring straight ahead, this time into eternity. We hear the applause again as the music swells, filling our ears and our heart and our minds. As one, heads tip back and it trickles down our throats to warm us again in the cold night air.
Fulfilled, we stand, waiting. The whisper comes, and we are off again, a killing entity spurred on by the one who guides us.
The Freaks Come Out at Night
The city is different at night. It isn’t just the cast of artificial light trying to hold back the night– it’s a different world entirely. Things seem clearer in daylight, but ask any medic or police officer, they’ll tell you what I’m telling you now: it’s an illusion. The world is not clear and Lord knows its never been safe. The innocent tell themselves that in the light they can see the darkness coming.
Trust me– no one ever really sees its coming.
Hell, I usually see it after it’s been and gone, but that’s when I do my best work.
At night, the red and white lights on my bus fight the darkness in their own way, like lightning bolts encased in the LED’s of my light-bar, fighting to break free.
True, those looking to do harm seem to think they’re safer in the shadows– but that’s an illusion too. Our wold is filled with cameras that track us everywhere we go. Let’s face it I have one on my shirt, and another on the bus.
Stores; ATMS; cars; intersections… they’re everywhere and while they don’t hold back the dark, they help the defenders make their case after the fact. If they can’t prevent the darkness they can seek retribution.
I like my part of the dark. It may not be safe, but I know it, and I know its rules. I know the enemy I face. Sometimes he wins– but he won’t win tonight.
Tonight, the city is mine and there will be no trips down the River Styx for those within the reach of my lights. Tonight, this Valkyrie chooses to take the not-quite-slain to the ER, and hold back the night for another day.
The radio announces that its time to put away the poetry and get to work.
303 words (minus title)
The sirens blared discordantly, shattering the silence of the night. Garbled instructions came over the loudspeaker. But we the populace are well trained and know what is required of us without such coaxing. Upon hearing the noise, everyone stops what they are doing and makes their way calmly out into the street, becoming part of the amorphous throng that creeps towards the shelters. There’s neither panic or discord, as it simply isn’t allowed. Too distracting. Too dangerous. We know that salvation lies in the shelters. The unlifed can’t coalesce until the morning sun rises – so much for myths where the dark was the danger – and they have no interest in the tawdry trappings and gewgaws that those of us still alive are so focused on. Submission to the announcement means that you know your place as a citizen and that others could rely on you. To do otherwise meant you were shunned, something feared worse than what the unlifed would do.
That’s the way it is, ever since the incursions started. It’s always been seen as the true measure of humanity, how we all pulled together and made it through those first few violent attacks. Back then the losses were horrendous. But now they’re just… inconvenient. Hardly anyone dies any more, the occasional idiot trapped outside is enough to keep people scared and toeing the line. You have to admit that it’s quite convenient, the way it’s all panned out. A generation or two ago, you’d never have had such a docile population. I know it’s for the good of us all, but it just doesn’t seem right.
I’m going to fight back. Not against the unlifed (that’s impossible of course) but there has to be a different way to stay safe. My body is going to be in the shelter, with everyone else, but my spirit won’t be. There must be more like me. I hope someday I’ll be able show others the way too. So starting tonight, things are going to change.
She had a dangerous allure that drew me to her danger without consequence. I first met her in the corralled outdoors in my old waterhole. I was sitting on a rotted stool listening to music when the smell of something sweeter than smoke broke me from my reverie. A mug of heavy purple and red drinks, one for each hand, her pink and blue hair framing a naked face.
“We need to go to church,” she said one dark day after the whiskey day shift had ended. “You need to be cleansed of all your sins—purged.” Somehow those words pierced through my melodious haze. She ran across train tracks and I stumbled and fell as I tried to follow. She never slowed down—but I sped up.
Icy breath sliced through my armor but my mind flipped the page. The broken glass wedged into my foot I remember staring at it—watching it as it oozed black ink. Murderous footprints stuck to a strangers orange tiled kitchen floor.
I became aware that we had stopped in front of a building shadow and she tapped out a secret code only known to her and the deity inside. Flickers of eyes, ears, shoulders, knees danced beneath the shadows and veiled kaleidoscopic mirrored windows.
I was nearly asleep, but she had become revitalized .
“You must leave a sacrifice. Go throw up—purge yourself so you can receive grace (Grace?)”.
Now guardian to gilded purse as she disappeared into the folds of stone and glass.
Word Count: 256 including title
by Alicia VanNoy Call
“Devil’s in the well,” says Rhoda.
She says it over breakfast. Brad and I glance at her.
Rhoda stuffs a wedge of pancakes into her mouth.
“That’s too much, sweetie,” I say.
She grins, cheeks full.
I lean over to slice her pancakes into pieces.
“What were you saying about the well?” I ask her.
“The devil is in the well,” she says. A glob of syrup sits at the corner of her lip. It glistens. “I saw him.”
“There’s nothing in the well. I drew water this morning.”
“No.” Her braids twirl out when she shakes her head. “Not that well. The other well.”
I look at Brad.
“She’s talking about the sump. You know, past the grove?”
“She’s not playing out there,” I say to Brad. He shrugs in that fourteen-year-old way.
“Rhoda, you’re not playing out by the sump are you? It’s not safe.”
“I play in the grove, Momma,” she says, “to build my fairy forts. I only went to the sump because he was calling.”
“Who?” I ask her.
“The devil,” she says.
The back of my neck prickles.
“Baby, probably just an animal slipped down there,” I tell her. “It’s really deep.”
“No, it’s not an animal,” she says. “I can hear the click clack of his bones when he talks.”
“The devil’s not a skeleton, dummy,” says Brad.
“Hush,” I tell Brad. Then: “Rhoda, don’t go to the sump ever again. It’s too dangerous. Promise me.”
She smiles. “Okay,” she says. “I won’t. But you should.”
I raise my eyebrows.
“He said you should come. He said, tell your momma I’m waiting.”
The bus honks and they run for their backpacks. Rhoda kisses me on the cheek, leaving a smudge of syrup and the faint smell Johnson & Johnson’s.
A tartan of rain clouds is spread across the sky. I splash through the alfalfa field in my muck boots. In the grove I see Rhoda’s fairy forts scattered among the ferns; the ground rises and when I emerge from the trees, slopes away. I feel a wash of anxiety as I picture Rhoda teetering on the edge of the rocky cleft leading to the sump.
I slip down the muddy slope. At the brink of the chasm, I pull my shawl tighter, knotting it over my clavicle.
I bend over the shadowed hole, peering down. There’s the scent of rust and a muted decay. I hear a distant splash.
“Hello?” I call.
Another splash. It echoes up, tinny and far-flung. There’s a clattering. Click clack. A nails-on-chalkboard scrape. The raw guttering of a whisper.
My name floats out of the sump like mist, wreathing my head for a moment and I shiver.
A cloud breaks and the sun shines over my shoulder, directly into the fissure. It glints off the water below. Sixty feet down, a bone-white glimpse. The water bucks, churning. The sun hides again.
The last syllable drawn out like a death rattle.
I remember the last time I stood here at the sump, a year ago, gazing down into the darkness, legs trembling with fatigue, scalp aching where Earl pulled out my hair. His skin under my fingernails. His look of dismay as he slithered out of sight. His weakening cries as I climbed into the grove. I couldn’t hear him in the trees, branches leaning around me like the little bowers Rhoda builds for her fairies.
“Earl,” I call into the murk. “Nobody wants you. Nobody cares. No one’s even noticed you’re gone.”
“Rhoda won’t come here anymore and neither will I.”
My own voice echoes back.
And then a waiting silence.
I crouch in the grove to admire one of Rhoda’s fairy forts. It slants, reflected in a puddle, a delicate collection of twigs and wilted violets. An insect lands on my shoulder. I pluck it from my shawl. Death’s head moth, velvety, the shape of a skull emblazoned on its thorax.
I place it on the tiny fairy roof. Its patterned wings fan. I turn toward home.
The bread dough will have risen, ready for the oven.
On My Own Terms
I’m awake before the thud on the door echoes down the apartment complex hallway.
I jam my legs into yesterday’s jeans and lace up my ratty sneakers without bothering to scrounge for socks. Finish up by snapping my bra in place and yanking a mostly clean shirt over my close cropped platinum hair.
I step out into the hall, let the door slam shut behind me without bothering to lock up, and nod to the dark figure slouching on the wall opposite me. So begins the day.
We head out into the smog-choked morning, side stepping a drunk’s puke and a junkie’s needle as we hit the sidewalk.
We get a block under our feet before he says, “You owe five today.”
I light a cigarette and go through a dozen inhales and exhales before responding. “Why the change in quota?”
“Yesterday’s old timer made a miraculous recovery. Means you got to ante up.”
Damn. Meant I’d have less time with my girl. Four a day was near impossible. But five? I don’t know of anyone who’s done five.
He interprets my silence all too well. “She’s ‘bout lost faith in you.”
“Piss off,” I grumble, my fists clenching and chest constricting.
“You want to go to blows, girl? I’ll put you down easy. Course, that’d break the terms of the deal. You remember the deal, don’t ya?”
I remember it just fine. Isn’t a moment of the day it’s not like a vice grip clamped down tight on my rot-soft heart. But I’d do it all again. For her.
We stop outside a brownstone with pink geraniums in the window boxes and lace curtains in the windows. My companion perches his bony haunches on the cold cement steps. I gather my nerve, what laughable little is left, and ring the bell.
She answers, her smile fading when she sees me. “How long since you showered, Shale?”
I stand there, draw her scent down into my lungs and hold it. Better than oxygen. Or nicotine. I’d do anything for this woman. Hell, I am doing it.
She shrugs and opens the door wide enough to allow me inside.
I follow her into the sunlit kitchen, suffering a stab of jealousy for the skirt hem caressing her shapely calves, slyly teasing me about all the sweet slick places I’m now forbidden to see and touch and taste.
She looks at me, arms crossed over her beautiful breasts, teeth worrying her lower lip, the lush lip I want to press to my own hungry mouth. Her words are cool, distant. “This job is killing you.”
What can I say? Not the truth. Never that. Let her believe I’m working myself to the bone in the factory. “You’re right -”
She doesn’t let me finish. “I can’t do this anymore, Shale. You shouldn’t come here anymore.”
I bite back the urge to tell her everything, to pin her to the wall and silence her doubt and fear and heartbreak with relentless kisses and penetrating fingers. Instead, I take her hand and press my mouth to her palm, gently.
And I go back out into the cold ugly world, the sprawling stinking mass of inhumanity, and begin searching for my first prey of the day.
My crime is loving her. My punishment is losing her. My penance is four souls a day. For that small price, I can see her every morning, for as long as she opens the door, and keep the blood off her hands.
But I cannot tell her. About the deal. About the price. Or why I don’t touch her anymore. And the day I don’t make the quota, that’s the day they assign it to her.
Maybe no one before has ever snared five souls. But then no one before has loved with such selfless ferocity.
And no one, least of all the devil, can convince me that loving her is a sin.
– – – – –
655 words / @bullishink
Paying the Price.
He tied the ropes and pulled them hard, the gasp it provoked satisfying him that that they were tight enough. He stood up and looked round the cellar; its empty, dankness reassuring him. The bare light bulb reflected the stark minimalist feelings that fuelled him.
He took the steps back up to the bright light of real life, and made sure he locked the door behind him. He’d give them a few hours to settle in.
Scott walked into the kitchen where his wife was busy preparing lunchtime pack ups, and their two kids were busy eating breakfast. He grabbed a stool next to his son and started in on the toast that had been placed in front of him.
“Whatja doing in the cellar, Papa?”
Little George’s face looked up at him all inquisitive. He tousled his hair.
“Never you mind, buddy. You ready for your test today?”
“Yes. I’m gonna ace it. Piece of cake.”
Scott grinned. At 7 years old his son was so self-assured. He loved that.
They finished up breakfast and he dropped the kids off at school while his wife went to work. When he got back, he thought of going up to his office first to prepare the papers, but he was curious how they were getting on in the cellar.
He grabbed a bucket from under the kitchen sink and filled it with water, taking it with him as he unlocked the cellar door. He paused at the top, waiting to hear any sounds, but there was nothing – not even a whimper.
When he reached the bottom he stood facing them, standing between the chairs they were tied too. He threw half the water on one and half on the other. It brought gasps from the man, but nothing from the woman, although she shook the water off. That intrigued him.
He stepped toward her and lifted her chin up. Her eyes were cold, determined, seeing him, but resistant. He liked that, it titillated him. He glanced at the man who was watching him. There was fear in his eyes. His mind no doubt racing, wondering what Scott was going to do.
Scott laughed. He couldn’t help himself. They had no idea. Maybe he should get on with it then, although there was no hurry, he had all day.
He needed to be careful; he didn’t want to create too much noise. The dope he’d injected when he’d found them earlier that morning kept them muted, but he knew that would change when he began.
The phone ring, and he paused. Looked like they had a reprieve for now.
He conscientiously locked the door again when he reached the top, and grabbed the phone in the kitchen.
“Hey Scotty.” Her voice was like silk. “You got them?”
“I sure do.”
“Do you need any help?”
“I got this.”
“You sure?” She sounded disappointed.
“It’s simpler this way. Just make sure you’re ready.”
“Oh I’m ready all right, I was out all night.”
He closed his eyes and swallowed had, he hated what her voice did to him.
“I don’t mean digging their graves.”
“I know you don’t baby.”
“Don’t call me that. I’m not your baby anymore.” Scott was firm.
“Fine.” She hung up. He knew she was upset, but he didn’t care. He was done with this.
He went back to work down in the cellar.
Scott patted the top layer with the spade until it was nice and firm and then placed some forest debris over it, so it didn’t stand out.
Then he reached in his back pocket and pulled out an envelope.
“Here. This closes everything off.”
“I can’t thank you enough Scotty.”
Her voice in the dark still aroused him. He gritted his teeth.
“I don’t need your thanks. I just want my soul back.”
He could see her bottom lip pout. “You sure? We were so good together.”
“I’ve paid your price, now it’s over.”
“As you wish.”
There was a flash as the envelope went up in flames, the light catching her face, exposing its true grotesque nature seconds before she vanished. He shuddered. It was done.
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