Two Short Poems

As anticipated, I was not able to write a short story this week.  I did manage to get some work done with the RPG script, but not much else.  I hope all of you had a satisfactory Thanksgiving and weren’t trampled the day after.  Because people seemed to like my last poem “Termites” (it got more ‘likes’ than any of my stories, which I find interesting because I don’t think I’m good at poetry), I’m going to post two more shorties. The first one was published in my college’s literary magazine, and the second I made for a class. I’m going to post brief explanations afterwards.  I dislike needing to explain them, but I’ve had multiple appeals asking me to explain my poems after the fact, so I’ll put them down should anybody want to know.  Enjoy, God bless, and rock on.

“The Light That Guides Me Home”

To the blinding, burning light
Drink me up
Reduce this mortal coil to dust

In one instance I find you
A blast brighter than no other
A callous
manufactured
masquerade of God

No mercy for me
nor child
Nor the widow soon to be
Our curtain slowly closes

I pray your light never reach them
Your words never deafen
Their innocence and peace

Please forgive me, holy terror
But I hate you so much
Damnable synthetic device

Too simple, you fulfill your design
Pull in your pin
cooked in a palm
Thrown with no aim at all

What am I doing here
with your grace open before me
Opening your jaws
of shrapnel and white?

No matter
of little consequence now
Envelope my soul, I ask
nurse my body to death
And call me into that final goodbye.

“The Red Thread of Fate”

Spun upon my finger small
Chanced by fate’s design
Finger-hook
to the cheek
Gently, gently tugging along

Oh, curse you, red thread of fate
For evacuating my apartment
Dragging me into winter’s hymn
Sacrificing my marrows
to Mother’s song

How she catches my eye again
That delicate soul
with her glissade and spin. Dancing
on snow-touched lakebed.
A dwelling for the child in her soul
so sweet and I
can only fawn.

Calling me out here, hm, red thread of fate?
With what to say? 
I fret to stay and linger
Tear you from me
If only I could
and not let my heart flutter ‘til dawn

Moonlight blessing touch this heart
Give this thumb-twiddling man
Words to weave
in spite of himself. With
confidence tempered, nice and strong

Red thread of fate, I am so afraid
But already she has seen me
there is no retreat.
I join her on lonely white sea

She takes my hand
a gesture sudden and unexpected
but hardly upsetting
We begin our own ballad
to which we slowly ascend
I voice my heart like a trumpeter swan

Spun upon my finger small
That red thread of fate holds tight
Welcomed to wrap my heart
And gently, gently tug along.

In sum: The Light That Guides Me Home is from the perspective of a soldier who’s watching the blast of a grenade in front of him, certain to take his life.  The Red Thread of Fate is a mild love poem based on lore from some Eastern Asian countries such as Japan and China. You can read more about it here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_thread_of_fate

Advertisements

The Interview (Short Story)

Hello all you happy people.  I thought I’d do a fun spin for the week.  A story about a hero interviewing to be a villain.  1,810 words, though I could have easily made it longer.  I wanted to try and write something that was driven largely by dialogue, and this was the result.  Because I’m going home for the Thanksgiving holiday, there probably will not be a new story next week, though I’ll figure out something neat that I can post.  In the meantime I’ll probably work on my book a little bit and the scripting for the videogame project.  I also have to catch up on the Walking Dead, so there’s also that…
Enjoy and Happy Thanksgiving!

Image

The Interview

                “As I’m sure you’ve suspected, this isn’t normal protocol.”

I nod as I take my seat, “If we were normal, we’d be out of a job.”

If the overlord was amused, he didn’t show it.  My answer seemed to satisfy him enough, but I can’t say the same for the triad of his peers, my interviewers.  Then again, I knew they were a tough crowd.  Any supervillain worth their mettle always was.

“Jericho here has to level a Mediterranean island this evening, so forgive us if we are attentive to time.  It couldn’t be helped.”  A burly oaf with skin fair enough to challenge The White Witch gave a stunted nod.  I’d heard of Jericho.  He was probably the least imposing of the titans before me, but still had enough experience and power under his belt to give A-class heroes a modest challenge.

As for the piece of work that had been breaking me in, that was Malachi, more notoriously known by-and-large as Utter Doom.  I’d trained myself to look at his forehead when speaking with him, so as to avoid direct contact with the “Lucifer Eyes” that brought him to the top of his field.  They were blank, cleaner than white, and only an accessory to his esteemed fury.  Utter Doom had been around since the dawn of the supervillain, and was the standard that defines many supervillain tropes.  Ironic, because nearly all of those came from his younger days and most of them are a reflection of inexperience.  Nowadays it’s a rule of thumb that you don’t make your ventilation ducts large enough to crawl through, and you never monologue for more than two lines.

“That’s understandable,” I said, “Thank you for the opportunity to be here today.”

Utter Doom gave a curt nod, “Of course.  Let’s begin.  Why are you interested in becoming a supervillain?”

I did my best to shed a practiced smile and passed my eyes along each of my interviewers, steering clear of their gazes, “As a former superhero,” I paused for an instant to take in their expressions.  Good, none of them were surprised by this, “I have always admired the resilience of your side.  You make greater sacrifices than most of the supposed ‘heroes’, and are very action-oriented.  Supervillains are creative, meticulous, and have tremendous resolve.  Superheroes do not do much for themselves.  They simply respond to your presence.  If not for you, there would be no need for the hero.  I am fascinated by that instrumental importance and influence you carry.”

Doom scrawled things on the clipboard in his lap.  He sat straight-backed in a black throne chair, fitted with leather.  It was daunting how his expression remained.  Absolutely deadpan, without the slightest tremble or fidget.  “You clearly weren’t a superhero for very long.”

This caught me unprepared, “Might I ask why you think so?”

“In my experience, heroes often sacrifice just as much, if not more than the supervillains.  We might be lonely, or in perpetual financial ruin, or thought monsters, but like you said: it is by our own devices.  We are the proactive ones.  Maybe some of us have better reasons for our actions than others, but ultimately it is still our decision to behave and act against standardized morality.  We are sinister and underhanded, and many heroes are felled by our cunning and deceptiveness.  Some even come to our side because of how much we have cost them.  Do not underestimate the sacrifices of your enemy.”

I found myself closing peeled lips.  I hadn’t expected such class and respect from a supervillain, especially towards his adversaries.

“Our records show that you were a superhero for only five years?”  A new voice broke the conversation.  Miranda, the only female in the office.  The Queen.  I nod my affirmations, “What was your region and what are your powers?”

The Queen was entirely different from Utter Doom.  She weaved her words with enough restraint, but the tears of blood forever spinning from her eyes made me wary, like she would happily drive twelve blades into my heart at the drop of a hat.

Keeping your voice straight in front of a woman of this caliber was no simple task, “My first few years were largely based in central Europe, but the latter half was spent on the Eastern American shore.  As for powers, I can manipulate gravity.”

This seemed to please her.  “Always formidable if utilized properly,” she said.

I couldn’t stop my grin.

“Show me,” Jericho spoke.  They weren’t words.  They were bombs, and they blew apart both my knees and my conviction.  Steeling myself, I thrust one palm forward and unleashed a hideous shockwave, one strong enough to snap pillars of stone like chicken legs.  The table we gathered around blew into dust and shards, and the room was filled with a low-bass ringing like we were inside a troll’s war drum.  While the hair on his flesh might have flittered, the giant was a full four-hundred pounds of not-moving.  Only now did I realize that any one of my interviewers were enough to topple a nation.  I had nothing before them.  They were each at least ten times deadlier to the world than I was.  Doom didn’t even blink.  Jericho grunted, “Pretty good.”

Pretty good?  Oh, man.

Until now, the last interviewer hadn’t yet graced me with a word from his unholy tongue.  Honestly, I would have preferred it stayed that way.  The final of the four was Famine, one of the infamous Horsemen of Apocalypse.  A demon among supervillains and probably the only inquisitor present with enough spine and cruelty to stand up to the devil.  “If you were accepted for the position, what methods would you take to ensure optimal damage output?  What are some of your operational preferences?”

Swallowing through my heart, I persevered, “Until now I’ve been familiar with working alone or in small groups, but I feel the next best step for my career is to join an organization.  Power in numbers and all of that.  This will give me the first-hand experience I need for the long-term ambition of leading my own dark organization.  A sort of anti-hero unit, I suppose.  We will have no other purpose but to destroy those who defy us,” I paused for a moment to study Utter Doom, who seemed to be clenching his jaw quite tightly.  I continued, “As for specific methods, I would abide by the guidebook of Doom’s apprentice ‘Black Stroke’.  Absolutely brilliant methodology and technique, with humor and wit to boot.”

“It’s a shame he didn’t take his own advice,” Doom said off-handedly, in a slow drone, “Rule twelve: ‘Never let the hero have a last request.’  That one mistake was all he needed.”

“Nevertheless, they are quality guidelines for any contemporary supervillain,” I defended, “And as for ‘optimal damage output’ I would probably start by convincing my former companions that I was still interested in being a superhero.  Manipulation and deceit are wonderful tools, even for ordinary villains.”

Famine was a dirty red color in his skin, like desert sands at sunset.  His skull was lined with jagged black protrusions and I wondered how he ever slept.  Or if he ever slept.  He pursed his lips and tipped his head, jotting down notes.

Utter Doom cleared his throat and readjusted himself, “Answer the following with as much speed and precision as possible.”

I readied myself.  I’d been studying for this part.

“As a supervillain, is it better to have a son or a daughter for your progeny?”

“Neither,” I shoot out, almost forgetting the rest of my answer, “Sons are proud, and their inevitable plans to usurp me might fail, but it will almost certainly be at a critical point in time.  The distraction could result in my downfall.  Daughters are easily tricked into falling for the hero’s swashbuckling charm and skill, thus leading to ultimate betrayal.  Though if I had to choose, I’d rather have a son.  I could use his evil strength until he came of age, and then I would kill him in what looked like an accident.  If he had friends, they would be disposed of preemptively, so as to waylay their possible vengeance.”

Doom was quick with the next question, “When is an enemy considered defeated?”

“When they are either cremated, or at the very least, mutilated to the point that they wouldn’t want to live.  And absolutely no assumptions.  If they fell down a cliff, I would personally go down with a strike team to retrieve the body and finish up a proper disposal.”

“If you had a platoon or army under your command, what sort of aesthetics would you employ in the design of their uniform?”

This one was disappointingly easy.  Only the stupid villains missed this question anymore.  “Grant them individuality.  They might all wear one suit, but make it unique and open to slight variety and character.  If helmets are included, and they should be, then they ought to reveal the identity of the soldier underneath.  At the very least, the eyes should be visible.  Such a simple device does tremendous things to the hero’s psyche and makes your underling more likely to survive in battle.”

Utter Doom sighed and penned his thoughts onto the board, “Straight from Black Stroke’s lessons.  I can’t say they were poor answers…just rehearsed.”

“I prefer to use the word ‘practiced’.  Makes me feel more disciplined and malleable.”

The Queen licked her lips, “One last question.  If there were any one villain you could follow for a day, who would it be?”

“Whipgun,” I answer, aware that I might be making a poor decision.

“Whipgun?” The Queen grimaced, “The speed beast?  Why him?  He has fulfilled nothing but minor-league contracts, heists, and burglaries.  Any hero worth their power can defeat Whipgun.”

“Because if I could follow Whipgun, that would mean I was really, really fast.”

Jericho made a tumbling noise in his chest that I hoped was a chuckle.

The Queen curled her fingers around the pen in her hand and looked at me hard.  For a second, I thought I’d made a mistake.  But my concerns melted when she smiled.  An evil smile, but a smile all the same, “At the end of it, he cracks a joke.  I like how you play this game.”

Doom and Famine were profoundly unaffected by the humor, but it wasn’t for them anyways.  “That’s all I have,” Doom said, “Does anyone else have something they’d like to add?”

Unanimous shrugs and head-swaying across the board.

“Very good,” Utter Doom directed himself towards me, “Before we go, do you have any last questions?”  He’d already begun to leave his seat, so I took that as a cue that I could as well.

I wore that practiced smile like a mask of hope, “Only one.  When can I start?”

The Bamboo Cutter

I made it!  I really didn’t think I’d have a story done by the end of the day.  Between finishing Breaking Bad, working, conquering the world, all of my recreational activities, and raw procrastination, I had a very difficult time coming up with a story this week.  To the point that I asked my friend for an idea what to write about.  This is the result.  I am an amateur with humor and only make good satire when the stars align, so think of this as a ‘serious humor’ of sorts.  It’s a little rough because of how rushed it was, but oh well. 1,064 words.

 

The Bamboo Cutter

                Until recently, Lenny was only familiar with the troubles of men, and was not sure how far those troubles could extend to the panda.  But in a change of fate as prejudiced as it was spontaneous, it was suddenly clear where his worth rested in the cold, black heart of Earth.  It might not have seemed like much, but that yogurt had weight.  It meant something.  It was an ultimatum, a final straw in his long-since-thinned patience.

                Lenny was a panda, worn in the womb of the world, and he wanted yogurt.

                You might not think it, but life is largely the same for pandas as for men.  At least, as far as America is concerned.  And not only pandas, but since the turning of the age, all forms of bear-life had begun their acceptance campaign into the democratic culture.  Though Lenny was not particularly fond of his white, polar cousins.  But they were all treated equally and with due fairness, as is the supposed American way.  Except for now.  Now Lenny was a bump of broiled distaste, because one young, human cashier had determined that pandas and their kin weren’t allowed to have yogurt.  Not of the strawberry, peach, or vanilla varieties.  The only ones that mattered.

                Instead of shrugging it and moving on to another employee, Lenny decided to let the discrimination sit and roll in his huge, beer-born, panda belly.  With the taste of a strawberry memory teasing him and yogurt profoundly absent from his life.

                That morning had been bruise-colored, with only scattered clouds and a fatigued, blurry sun.  The bumpy road to work was hell with a hangover, like a tent peg lodged firmly between both eyes.  It throbbed and throbbed, and in the meantime Lenny’s anger swelled, releasing itself during the lunch hour when Carl called him into the office.  Lenny knew he didn’t work very hard.  He was never ambitious and despite fitting the mold as a perfect bamboo cutter, his productivity was on a years-long decline.  So it wasn’t a surprise when Carl dropped the bomb that he was being laid off.  But of course, it still hurt, even through his thick bear-skull and last night’s vodka.

                Now it was evening and Lenny’s fur was disheveled with a long day’s toil of hating himself.  He tried to vent some of that anger at Smokey’s Everybear Gymnasium, but succeeded only in pulling two different muscles.  Afterwards he wanted to shower, but there was only cold water, and after swearing his way through that treason, he learned that there were no towels offered for drying, either.  Certain that it wasn’t enough just to take the low road, Lenny figured he had to be colorful about his frustration, so he promptly crapped on the floor before leaving.

                The roads were mostly clear, and he was pushing eighty-five.  Lenny’s soul was lost in the orange inferno of passing streetlights.  Both his mind and what was left of his heart tracked back to his family.  They deserved better, and for the small part, he tried to give them better.  A year after their daughter was born, Lenny and Jean almost split off.  Nobody would blame his wife for abandoning the poor bamboo cutter.  He was emotionally absent and known to beat her on rare, but not too rare, occasions.  It wasn’t really his fault.  Lenny was just repeating the gestures of love from his old man.  But he never hit Heather, their daughter.  That would have been too much.  If it had ever gone that far…well, it didn’t.  So he was at least thankful for that much, even if his relationship with her was on the rocks right now.

                Growing faster than Lenny could blink and with the dark, spitfire attitude of her young mother, Heather had reached the glacial pit of adolescence.  In her furious, relational charges, she had hooked up with Castor, the Mellick’s son.  A polar bear.  Lenny threw back a swig of Captain Morgan every time he thought about it.  Why a polar bear?  Why those narcissistic, ill-educated oafs?  He could only hope that the relationship would be as short as his own high school bouts with love, and that his naïve daughter would learn to shoot for higher standards in the aftermath.

                Man, strawberry yogurt sounded divine.

                It was in the throes of his reverie that Lenny saw the dancing beams of blue and red in his rearview.  He swore and groaned the only way a panda could.  Why did his back suddenly itch in that one spot he couldn’t reach?  Blast it.

                Lenny pulled over and waited with impatience as the police officer moved to his door.  Lenny rolled down the window and sighed, not even bothering to hide Mister Morgan, his partner-in-crime.

                “Good evening,” the officer said, “Do you know why I pulled you over tonight?”

                “Because I have a bumper sticker that says ‘Kiss me, I’m Asian’?”

                Brows tenting, the officer pursed his lips, “No.  Reckless driving.  Thirty over the speed limit, plus a little bit of swerving,  His body slanted as he caught sight of the beer, “How much have you had to drink tonight?”

                Lenny pulled in a chest of air and tried not to hick as he released it, “How many are usually in Captain Morgan’s crew?”

                Unamused, the officer penned something on his clipboard.  “License and registration?”

                “How about this,” Lenny bargained, “I will take any ticket that you have to give me, I will even go to jail for the night, if you go over to that convenience store and buy me some yogurt.  You have no idea.  I would kill a man for some vanilla right now.”

                Blinking slowly, Lenny looked dumbly at his steering wheel.  Did he just say that out loud?  Curse you Morgan, curse you.

                The follow transpiration was a pitiful attempt to reclaim his credit as an honorable driver, but with constant backdrops and poor decisions that ultimately landed the panda in overnight jail.  On his way to the bunks, Lenny thought it could be worse.  He wasn’t terribly interested in seeing Jean and Heather right now anyways, jobless and wasted as he was.  At least, it seemed like it could be worse, until he found that the entire cell was to the rim with polar bears and their filth.

                And not a trace of bloody yogurt to be found.

Image

Daughter of the Rain (Short Story)

A short story that takes up a more traditional fantasy mantle.  This one is shorter than my previous stories, sitting at only 834 words.  I’ve got a story I’m working on for next week that I find particularly interesting, so look forward to that.  I might be giving an update later this week about the RPG game me and one of my friends are making. In the meantime, smell the flowers, make a friend, count the stars, listen for colors, and enjoy. 🙂

Daughter of the Rain – 10/31/13

A chord of aching compassion sifted behind Ira’s chest.  He unfurled one hand slowly, reaching out towards the lonely creature under the wagon.  With a pout and limp, it fell back over itself.  Ira drew his arms to his core for warmth and sighed.

“How long have you been here?” He cast a half-attended glance to his side, maybe looking for somebody.  An owner possibly, or someone that might be able to help.  They were alone, so he returned his attention to the young beast.  It was longer than his arm and slender as the Crystal River, smooth tufts of hair gathering where scales were absent.  Ira stirred.  Between its dainty paws and the mercury glow of its eyes, the fledgling creature gathered old thoughts of a pet hound from his youth.

But this was hardly a hound or even a mutt.  Something in its build reminded Ira of a gargoyle, or one of those spirits from his father’s library.

It whimpered something low and rolling, scratching its broken claws into wet earth.  Ira pursed his lips and settled his knees into the mud.  Whatever it might be, it was hurt and made the distinct cry of having been betrayed.  It was something shared by men and beast alike.

Fumbling in his coat pocket, Ira broke off a chunk of stale butter-bread.  The rain reached down and made it soft.  He extended the supplement until the whole of his arm was beneath the wagon, his cheek against its hardwood carapace.  For a long minute there was nothing, but soon after, something nuzzled his fingers and lapped the food out of his hand.  It tickled. Ira dipped his head under the carriage to watch his new friend lick up the last of the bread.  “I don’t want to leave you here,” Ira fell back on his haunches and cast his head low, “But I don’t know where to take you.”

Curious silver rings peered back at him, now suddenly interested but resilient in wariness.

“I would never hurt you,” Ira said. He did all he could to keep his tone soft and distinctly motherly. “But words are fickle, aren’t they?  Like water.”

To his surprise, the young creature moved closer, one leg damaged enough that it could only drag.  Ira eased back into the rain, providing a space for it to join him.  The gargoyle’s eyelids flittered as the rain came against them.  Several deep lacerations crept along its sides, staining the surrounding fur in a blood darker than oil.  A swell above one eye seemed to just be healing, but that was the best of it.

Reciting the importance of caution to himself, Ira made clear to the beast that he was a friend, and then reached out until they were touching.  It purred meagerly and let him run fingers along the scales of its crown.  “I’m sorry.”

The gargoyle rustled its jaw and came closer.

“I’m so sorry.  Please forgive us.  I forget how cruel we can be.”

If the creature acknowledged or understood any of Ira’s words– which it may, he couldn’t be sure that it didn’t– then it would be a hideous deed of him to abandon or send it away.  Ira was dirty and unwanted even among his own kin.  What could he offer?  If it came with him, it would die before the week closed.  There was no home with warm hearth-fire to greet them.  No quiet place that was safe from the rain.

Perhaps sensing his own conflict, the gargoyle slid its head onto Ira’s lap and closed its eyes.  Ira heaved a single dry sob and clenched both fists before laying his head atop the beast’s own.  “What is your name, I wonder?”  A rhythmic, throaty tremble came from the beast.  A noise and feeling like a great cat’s purr.  The rain bid forth with greater fury, crushing the wagon’s steeple.  The collapse startled them both, and the creature looked back to Ira with a gaze of mixed pity and comfort.  An idle wind tossed the rain slantways.

“I think I have something,” Ira grinned with a trace smile like honey, “Ysuna.  Hmm?  A Southern word.  I think it’s religious.  ‘Daughter of the rain’.  How does that sound?”

As woefully inadequate as Ira felt most of his decisions were, this one seemed right.  Seemed strong and pure.  The creature must have agreed, because it licked its frothy pink tongue against the flat of his arm.

Gathering the injured creature into a cradle, Ira made a point to avoid hurting Ysuna any more than she already had been.  “Come on, let’s get out of the rain.”  Ira laid Ysuna on her better side, back against the inside of the wagon’s wheel.  There was just enough room for him to crawl underneath the carriage and rest beside her.  “We will rest here, and when the rain stops we will find someone who can help.”  Ira stroked the beast’s brow, “Hold on until then, okay?”

Termites (Short Poem)

So I guess Tuesday is my quasi-official release date each week.  That being said, I don’t have a short story to share. This last week was a little difficult to work with, so instead I’ll post a short poem I wrote several months ago. Poetry is hardly my forte, but I rather like this one. Enjoy.

Termites

I’m a termite.  I’ve made home in this block of wood.
It’s getting warmer, I wonder if I could dig deeper in this block
to find a good place for my baby to sleep.

Sweat trickles to my eyes.   I begin to stagger.
Crackling noise disturbs my baby and wakes her from that sleep.
She shakes hard in my arms, but the ashes keep her from crying.

Our home I’ve made begins to burn, including all we have.
All our suffering for a gentle laugh, an evening, our deaths inspire.
For while we burn, another family enjoys their night out at the campfire.

The Drums (Short Story Original Work)

A mild horror piece for the Halloween season.  Please comment your thoughts and have a good day.  1,277 words.

“The Drums” – Written 09/21/13

                There was rain.  On a Hallows’ Eve, that meant something.  In the shadows of the manor Whitewine, it meant something more.  Whitewine was a cobweb of antiquity, and one could swear it was that way from the beginning.  But there had been people once.  A family of five and however many generations preceded them.  Noel was a Whitewine, so she knew it to be true, even if that was long ago and time had since filled the manor with desolation.  Noel was trusting and altogether knowledgeable in the stations most considered worth having knowledge.  But she was also young, frightfully empathetic, and tonight, very much alone.

                There was rain and it came hard.  Against the ceramic shingle rooftop of the manor, it struck like an army of drummers.  This was a good thing.  The drone of their fall helped muffle each creak in the aged manor floor as Noel stepped within.  It muted her imagination, which would have otherwise suggested there was somebody walking through the upstairs.  But Noel’s mind was prone to remembering, and it remembered awful things at the worst of times.  Whitewine was a family, one of her own blood.  And in a time before hers, they were considered very much unholy.  She would never have thought to thank the rain, because she underestimated its kindness.  For without the rain, she would have heard the moans from the basement cellar.  Moans very real, despite her being alone.

                There was rain, but soon it might stop.  Nobody was allowed in the manor without rain’s company, especially during the after dark hours.  Noel knew this, but decided to take the risk regardless.  The family Whitewine was notorious for their business of stealing people.  Noel had learned such in the news columns of decades passed.  When finally the family had been caught in evidential movements and the manor was searched for missing persons, the town militia did not understand how sundered the minds of Whitewine truly were.  Their discovery led them to a home for bones and things which bled out slowly.  The kidnapped persons were not wholly themselves any longer.  Through rigorous and generous torture, only parts of their minds and bodies remained intact.  Many were stripped nude, strung up by manacles in the cold cellar until their feet had gone black and flaky.  They would beat their heads back against the cellar wall, trying to lull themselves into death.  Some succeeded, others simply cracked their brains.  Some were missing their tongues, eyes, lips, or ears, later found assorted in the children’s bedrooms.  There were worse things than this, things that would make the devil proud, but those memories were dark and the worst representations of man, so Noel dutifully tried to forget them.  But these crimes were not easily forgotten.  Not by man, by God, or by time.

                There was rain, and it made the air cold.  Noel wondered sometimes if God forgave people like these.  Did heaven also delight in their company?  She was unsure what to think of it all.  But that wasn’t important now.  The manor was important.  Basking in its history and acclimating to its macabre silence.  Except it wasn’t silent.  There was always a sound of drums.  The rain now making earth its pasture.  There was something more to the noise, but it was lost in the rain, to her benefit.  Young Noel would find the Whitewine legacy on her own very soon.  Once the dust guided her down to the cellar.  All in time, all in time.

                Still there was rain, but it was drawing to a close.  The yearning patter began to crawl to a stop, leaving all natural life refreshed and thankful.  In this saturated world, hope was as alive as it sounded.  And that was beautiful.  But though the rain reached the manor, it held no cure for the bitter memories within.  Those memories of pain and hatred and cruelty of the greatest sort.  Noel remembered them from her readings, and for years her imagination had played with her, trained her for this moment.  This was not good, nor beautiful, as she would soon find out.  Not that she expected different from God’s worst sinners.  But within her dark dreams came a whistle, something entirely unexpected because of its ferocity.  Dread crept onto her the way only it knew how.  With a smile and slow courtesy.  The whistle was not in her mind, like she first believed it might have been.  It came from the boards between her feet, twenty feet into a grave of the earth and the black heart of the Whitewine manor.  Noel flinched and stepped forward, quickly finding the door to the basement cellar.

                The rain died and ceased its pounding.  The new absence reminded Noel of an old heart, finally giving up its struggle.  There was quiet, but only for a moment, until the girl reached for the cellar door.  As she did, the drums dawned again.  Rather, she only finally began to hear what had always been.  These drums belonged more than the rain and it was their right to stay.  They thudded like a dull fist striking a table and echoed twice as deep.  Noel spun the knob and yanked open the door.  She was welcomed by a years-old stink.  Something like wood rot and disease.  The clouded light from outside filled in the cellar as she descended.  There were windows, veiled by the webs of a hundred dead spiders, and everything was of tattered stone.  It looked and smelled as unhallowed as she’d imagined.  But the drums were different.  They were a raw beat, unsettlingly alive and visceral.  With the bravery of a fool, Noel began to search for that rhythm growing ever louder.

                There was no rain, but still the drums sounded.  As she lurked ahead, Noel was increasingly aware of her thin frailty.  She was a scarecrow.  All straw and thread, no spine or substance.  But the drums had her.  For a breath she reconsidered if it wasn’t all in her mind.  That would be simple and explanative, but it would also be very untrue.  In the furthest back, towards the darkest end of the basement, she found a man in suffering.  Iron shackles arrested him, and they lay at his sides.  Noel cringed at the slope of his body.  It was as though his spine had been pulled apart and fastened into a stretch, with only his upper torso and head supported by the cellar wall.  An unsettling gray crust had baked over his skin, while his jaw seemed broken and slack, swaying back and forth with each toss of his head.  Both of his manacles were affixed by chain and nail to a slab of wood behind his head, forever preventing escape.  Noel shivered.

                Where was the rain? She wanted it back.  Again and again the dead man would crack its head against the wood.  It was a dull thump, thump filled with resigned defeat, something Noel took to mean that he’d wanted to die for so long, only for death to never come.  Thump, thump it continued, just like the rain.  Thump, thump went the drums.  It quickly became too much.  Maybe Noel cast herself away from that horror, that godless tomb.  She couldn’t remember, even years later.  Again she tried to counsel herself into believing that the Whitewine’s sins had long since ended.  The dead man was just as he was, dead.  A disaster of her mind, fabricated from long nights of reading Whitewine lore.  It didn’t really matter.  Every moment the rains came thereafter, she remembered the drums.  And of course they remembered her, too.  Goodnight, Noel.

Ghost – A Short Story

A new, original short story written on 09/11/13.  Only 1,200 words to welcome the coming fall months.  Enjoy.

                In evenfall there was a ghost, one who took kindly to others but found all his company alone.  Children share their tales, as children do, about when they met the ghost and what they’d done together.  About what they might do, should they ever meet this apparition again.  But while their stories were only by the fond side of the heart and meant no ill, they were also the sorts of false expression expected of children.  Unlike their tales, the ghost never housed a guest, as guests never made it so far into the woods without turning back.  More than that, it had been a long age since the ghost last knew anything of friendship.  But should any wandering souls find themselves lost in that wood, and if perchance they stumbled upon the ghost’s home, they would find something lovely.  Lovely, maybe, but terribly austere and lonesome in all the gentlest ways.

                The ghost made its days cultivating a modest cabbage patch, with rough carrots intermixed.  This gave credence to the white-washed stone gardening walls, put up only a few years earlier.  It was all that could be done to keep out intruding hare and all manner of invasive critter.  A rickety sign clicked overtop the doorframe of a home that the innocent and friendly might envy.  Scrawled in black ran across its face a single word: ‘Ghost’.  This was its home, the only place it knew.  Perhaps a mystery to the ghost, but this was also a prison.  Thoughts and memories of its life were all trapped here, and for that reason, it could never leave.  And because it would never leave, it would never find a new life.

                Still it stayed, and it was happy.  Lonely on bad days, but it was a cheerful ghost with the knowledge that bad days couldn’t last.  So it remained inside when the rains came and made its home well, so that when somebody might finally brave the wood and find the gentle home beyond, it would be ready for them.  There would be festivities of the sort only a ghost could satisfy.  It would be a celebration with warm, butter-baked bread and the ghost’s favorite kind of chocolate.  Pumpkins might be carved with the ghost’s perfectly polished tools and marshmallows would be roasted in a quiet fire. There would be music, because of course the stranger would have a spirit for song and dance.  Maybe ghosts struggle to dance, but this ghost would try.  It practiced often, when nobody was looking.

                But this was all just a dream, one of the happy dreams meant for a good day.  Today was a laundry day, which meant it was neither good, nor bad.  The ghost was thankful that it was cloudless outside.  It preferred its labors at night, and night was awfully solemn without any stars.  You’d think a ghost would have no need for laundry, but you would be wrong.  This ghost loved each of its four sheets more than anything else in the home.  They were simple, often just as dirty as they were now.  Everlasting fingers of mud had saturated deep into their white.  A light tattering could be felt in the surface of each and along their edges.  These made them imperfect.  But imperfect was most usually the best way to have something.  The ghost knew this and liked them all the same.

                Sometime long ago the ghost cut little circles in the sheets.  The circles were cut in pairs and, because ghosts aren’t very coordinated, they were laughably asymmetrical.  Some were too high, others too low.  Nearly all of them too close or too far.  But the sheets were already imperfect, and so surely they understood how difficult it was for a ghost to cut proper eye holes.  This only made the ghost love and nurture them that much more.  So as it was, the ghost would wash them, grinning as it churned through popping bubbles and suds.  The companionship of the moon made these evenings warm and before long the ghost would finish bathing its sheets.

                A slash of string was spread across the yard, suspended between two timber spires.  Since the sheets would need a chance to dry, the ghost used this line to hang them and let the night air have its way.  During this period it sank into a deep patience.  Sometimes the ghost would sit in silence and wait, other times it might hum the progression to a sweet autumn song.  You know, something red and yellow, but mostly orange.  A song that smells of nutmeg and cinnamon.  One of these days somebody would be sitting nearby and humming along.  You don’t have to be a ghost to appreciate the small things like a humming comrade.

                When finally the sheets were cured of their wetness, the ghost would pull them off the line and smile.  It would smile a tender, forgiving smile.  Something it learned from children’s books.  Armed with that smile, it would carry the sheets over and drape them on four posts, standing no more than three heads from the ground.  If assorted properly, the eye-pockets would look straight back at him.  Or as straight as possible, with the ghost’s handiwork.  In that moment, the ghost would fondly share its musings and happenings with the sheets.  They were usually a kind audience, with a generous ear.  On bad days, they never said anything.  But that was alright, because usually it was a good day, and on good days the laundry would talk back.  None of them bore scars of rudeness or malign gestures.  Instead they were friendly, and often times their stories were better than any the ghost could tell.  Together they would reminisce of young life games, younger sweetheart loves, and the adventures known to dwell in far lands and amidst the sea.  Naturally there was laughter, and even though there may not have been music, they always sang.

                In time a wind would come and snatch the sheets up as a futile attempt to steal them away.  But the ghost had a big yard, and though the sheets might tumble and mar with dirt, it would always catch them.  There would be a pang of sadness in its heart as the conversation drew to a sudden close.  For a moment the ghost believed the sheet might not ever talk again.  If anybody has ever lost a friend, or said goodbye for what they knew could be the final time, then they understand much of how the ghost felt during these moments.  But it was a hopeful ghost, with a big heart and keen understanding.  The sheets could get dirty over and over, and the ghost would always be ready to clean them anew.  So it would, so it would.

                Because today might be a good day.  Maybe.  This ghost was an ambitious ghost and not taken to long-suffering or hardship.  Strangers never came to visit, so it had time to do the laundry.  And once it had begun, it could sit alone and wait according to its custom.  Though strangers never said hello and children never ventured near its home, if the ghost waited long enough it would always have someone that might listen.  Some sheets with little holes for eyes.  Some sheets that fluttered upon a post.  Friends with which it could sing and not be disheartened.  Because at evenfall there was a ghost with homemade friends, and nobody knew their stories but him.