Halloween Hijinks or Hell

Toby stepped out of his cruiser and put on the hat the Sheriff’s Department made him wear. For once he was glad to have it. It would hide his eyes from Marissa.

“What the hell,” Marissa said. She was startled awake from the sound of pounding at the door mixed with the incessant ringing of the doorbell. She reached over to wake up Mark, but her hand touched empty space.

“I’m deeply sorry for your loss, Marissa,” Toby said catching her shoulders just before she collapsed in the doorway. He gently guided her to the floor and knelt beside her.

“I don’t understand, Toby,” she said, “Mark was sleeping right beside me and now you’re telling me he’s been killed in a car accident? How is that possible?”

“I just don’t know,” Toby replied.

Marissa sat on the floor sobbing.  She held Toby tightly knowing he, too, must be devastated. He and Mark were best friends.

“I’m sorry to do this to you, Marissa, but I need you to come down and identify Mark’s body,” Toby said, his voice barely audible.

Toby helped Marissa to her feet and she walked up the stairs to get dressed.

Nothing was making sense. How could she not have heard Mark get up? How could she not have heard him leave the house? Something wasn’t right. She sat on the corner of the bed. Her long brown hair brushed against her cheeks as she bent down to tie her shoes. Just then her thin lips began to curl upwards and a sparkle ignited her blue eyes. There was a giggle trapped in her gut.

“I know what this is,” she whispered, “Toby and Mark are playing a Halloween prank.” She let the giggle escape her lips and quickly covered her mouth so Toby wouldn’t hear. “Well, I’ll show them. I’ll play along and see how far they’re going to take this.”

Marissa put on her best distraught face and walked back downstairs to meet Toby.

***

Toby pushed the large metal button that opened the double doors to the morgue. Marissa was sure this prank couldn’t go on much longer. Toby led her into a cold room with mint green walls. There were several large metal carts covered with white sheets. Toby stopped at one in the back of the room nearest the wall.

“Are you ready, Marissa?” he asked.

Marissa tried to stifle a laugh. Was Mark going to jump out at her? She tried to prepare herself. This had to be a prank. She couldn’t imagine this was proper procedure for a body identification.

“Yes, Toby, I’m ready.”

Toby lifted the sheet and Marissa stood silent, stunned. It was Mark, but he looked waxy and grey. His face was blotched with blue and there was a deep cut in his forehead. He looked…dead.

Marissa walked over and touched Mark’s face. He was cold. She fell to the ground. This time Toby didn’t catch her.

***

Marissa walked into her bathroom and opened the mirrored cabinet trying to avoid her distorted reflection. She grabbed the bottle of sleeping pills and emptied them into her hand. With a large gulp of water, she swallowed them all then laid down on the bathroom floor sobbing. She could not live without Mark. They had been together for over twenty years, since they were teenagers. He was her whole life. She couldn’t understand why he would have left in the middle of the night, on Halloween of all nights. What was he doing? It didn’t matter anymore. Marissa was going to be with him. This calmed her and darkness took over.

***

The alarm was piercing. Marissa reached towards the nightstand and hit the snooze button. She rolled over and wrapped her arms around Mark. She’d had a horrible dream that Mark had been killed in a car accident. It was all so crazy. “Thank God it was just a dream,” she whispered in Mark’s ear. She inhaled his scent – like kindling on the fire mixed with a hint of her favorite soap. She ran her hands through his soft, black hair and drifted back to sleep.

***

“What the hell,” Marissa said. She was startled awake from the sound of pounding at the door mixed with the incessant ringing of the doorbell. She reached over to wake up Mark, but her hand touched empty space.

Thaw by Fiona Robyn

Ruth’s diary is the new novel by Fiona Robyn, called Thaw. She has decided to blog the novel in its entirety over the next few months, so you can read it for free.
 
Ruth’s first entry is below, and you can continue reading tomorrow at http://read-thaw.blogspot.com.
 
*
 
These hands are ninety-three years old. They belong to Charlotte Marie Bradley Miller. She was so frail that her grand-daughter had to carry her onto the set to take this photo. It’s a close-up. Her emaciated arms emerge from the top corners of the photo and the background is black, maybe velvet, as if we’re being protected from seeing the strings. One wrist rests on the other, and her fingers hang loose, close together, a pair of folded wings. And you can see her insides.

The bones of her knuckles bulge out of the skin, which sags like plastic that has melted in the sun and is dripping off her, wrinkling and folding. Her veins look as though they’re stuck to the outside of her hands. They’re a colour that’s difficult to describe: blue, but also silver, green; her blood runs through them, close to the surface. The book says she died shortly after they took this picture. Did she even get to see it? Maybe it was the last beautiful thing she left in the world.

I’m trying to decide whether or not I want to carry on living. I’m giving myself three months of this journal to decide. You might think that sounds melodramatic, but I don’t think I’m alone in wondering whether it’s all worth it. I’ve seen the look in people’s eyes. Stiff suits travelling to work, morning after morning, on the cramped and humid tube. Tarted-up girls and gangs of boys reeking of aftershave, reeling on the pavements on a Friday night, trying to mop up the dreariness of their week with one desperate, fake-happy night. I’ve heard the weary grief in my dad’s voice.

So where do I start with all this? What do you want to know about me? I’m Ruth White, thirty-two years old, going on a hundred. I live alone with no boyfriend and no cat in a tiny flat in central London. In fact, I had a non-relationship with a man at work, Dan, for seven years. I’m sitting in my bedroom-cum-living room right now, looking up every so often at the thin rain slanting across a flat grey sky. I work in a city hospital lab as a microbiologist. My dad is an accountant and lives with his sensible second wife Julie, in a sensible second home. Mother finished dying when I was fourteen, three years after her first diagnosis. What else? What else is there?

Charlotte Marie Bradley Miller. I looked at her hands for twelve minutes. It was odd describing what I was seeing in words. Usually the picture just sits inside my head and I swish it around like tasting wine. I have huge books all over my flat – books you have to take in both hands to lift. I’ve had the photo habit for years. Mother bought me my first book, black and white landscapes by Ansel Adams. When she got really ill, I used to take it to bed with me and look at it for hours, concentrating on the huge trees, the still water, the never-ending skies. I suppose it helped me think about something other than what was happening. I learned to focus on one photo at a time rather than flicking from scene to scene in search of something to hold me. If I concentrate, then everything stands still. Although I use them to escape the world, I also think they bring me closer to it. I’ve still got that book. When I take it out, I handle the pages as though they might flake into dust.

Mother used to write a journal. When I was small, I sat by her bed in the early mornings on a hard chair and looked at her face as her pen spat out sentences in short bursts. I imagined what she might have been writing about – princesses dressed in star-patterned silk, talking horses, adventures with pirates. More likely she was writing about what she was going to cook for dinner and how irritating Dad’s snoring was.

I’ve always wanted to write my own journal, and this is my chance. Maybe my last chance. The idea is that every night for three months, I’ll take one of these heavy sheets of pure white paper, rough under my fingertips, and fill it up on both sides. If my suicide note is nearly a hundred pages long, then no-one can accuse me of not thinking it through. No-one can say, ‘It makes no sense; she was a polite, cheerful girl, had everything to live for,’ before adding that I did keep myself to myself. It’ll all be here. I’m using a silver fountain pen with purple ink. A bit flamboyant for me, I know. I need these idiosyncratic rituals; they hold things in place. Like the way I make tea, squeezing the tea-bag three times, the exact amount of milk, seven stirs. My writing is small and neat; I’m striping the paper. I’m near the bottom of the page now. Only ninety-one more days to go before I’m allowed to make my decision. That’s it for today. It’s begun.
 
Continue reading at http://read-thaw.blogspot.com.

Christmas Memories

Marci pulled out the plastic bin from underneath the splintering shelves in her storage unit and wiped a year’s worth of dust from its top. She drew in a sharp breath of mold and mildew as she lifted the red bin, leaving only its imprint among the dust and dirt. She carried the large bin up the stairs and into her living room and placed it atop her perfectly polished table. She drew in another sharp breath, this time of fresh pine and sap. She could hear the Christmas music blaring from her upstairs neighbor and her floors and walls seemed to vibrate with its sound. She paused for a moment before lifting the lid off last year’s memories.

Last year, the music had played in Marci’s home, her three-year-old daughter, Amanda, singing along so loudly that the same neighbors upstairs had complained. But her house was quiet this year, Amanda gone before last year’s Christmas tree had even been taken down. Now Marci was forced to listen to the same songs her daughter had loved as she set about decorating this year’s tree.

Marci pulled each shiny ornament out of the storage bin and placed it in perfect order upon the tree. She reached into the bin for another ornament, but instead pulled out a small pink shoe. The laces were frayed at the edges, the tennis shoe dirty and torn. It was Amanda’s. She had been wearing this shoe the night she died. Marci could not figure out how the shoe had gotten into the Christmas bin, could not understand how she could have been so careless. When she had removed Amanda’s body from under the Christmas tree where it had lain, lifeless, the shoe must have gotten caught in the fallen ornaments. She was sure before she had secured Amanda’s body in the Christmas tree disposal bag that nothing of Amanda’s had been left behind.

She tossed the tattered shoe into the fireplace, surrendered to the Christmas cheer offered by her upstairs neighbor’s music and began to hum “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” letting the sound take her mind far away from last year’s Christmas memories.

The Numbing Effect (Cont.)

*This is a continuation of my first imitation so you might want to read that first before reading this so it makes more sense.

Tom pulls Natalie from behind the dumpster saddened by the blisters on the lips he used to kiss. He pulls her sallow, bruised arms behind her and lightly clicks the cool, silver metal around her frail wrists. He puts his hand on her back as he leads her towards the flashing blue lights and feels a knot forming in his throat blocking his air.

“Daddy?” Natalie asks looking up into Tom’s eyes as if they are her father’s.

He protects her head as he gently guides her into the back of his cruiser.

“Daddy?” she asks desperately.

“How could I have let this happen?” he thinks as he catches her reflection in the rear view mirror. It seemed like yesterday they were watching her parents’ dancing, he envious of their love. He hoped as he watched them that he was seeing Natalie and his future. He had been working, bagging groceries, saving to buy her a ring. He wanted what her parents’ had. He thought he would have it with her.

He flips the blue lights off and drives through the darkening streets to his home. He takes off the cuffs. Natalie is passed out, no longer a threat. When he picks her up the softness of her neck catches him off guard; nothing but bare, undisturbed skin. He had kissed her there, on that soft, undisturbed skin, as he tried to convince her to leave her father’s birthday party with him. But she didn’t want to disappoint her father. Maybe things would have turned out differently.

He sets her down in his bed, removes her tattered clothes. He touches her blistered lips and watches them return to the smooth, fullness that he remembers. He touches the needle marks in the delicate curve of her arm and they disappear. As he touches each part of her body, her skin comes alive, no longer fading quickly from yellow to blue. It seems that he can save her, from the pain, from the outside world, from herself. He falls asleep next to her hopeful of his new future, of the life he has breathed into her with his touch, until he wakes up the next morning to an empty bed.

After shift, he comes to find her each night behind this dumpster, thrown out like yesterday’s trash. He touches her cold body, bringing it back from the darkness it had fallen into. When she opens her icy eyes she only calls out for her father. But he takes her to his home anyway, tries to salvage what has been lost, having faith that one day he will finally save her.

This short was for a class assignment. It is an attempt to imitate Toni Morrison’s Beloved with a little bit of Kundera’s Unbearable Lightness of Being.

Just Before Dawn

My latest Halloween short “Just Before Dawn” has been posted on The Campfire Pages: Halloween Edition. Take a look and let me know what you think! You can read many more fabulous Halloween stories there too!

You can read my other Halloween short “Reclaiming of the Soul” here!

Happy Halloween!

The Numbing Effect

*Warning: Contains Adult Language.

The smell of garbage, now too familiar, makes Natalie wish she could go back home to the smell of her mother’s Chanel perfume. She holds the pipe to her lips, hits it, and lets her head fall back against the brick building in the alleyway caught up in the rush. The buildings and blackness start to spin, her eyes follow them around and around, her smile widens as her mother appears dancing with her father. It’s his 40th birthday and there are so many couples dancing, smiling, spinning around and around like the tiny ice skaters on her mother’s Christmas display.

“You’re lucky to have parents like that,” her boyfriend, Tom, says as he runs his hand up and down her back, “Very lucky.” His parents divorced six years ago, when he was ten, and they still aren’t speaking to each other.

Natalie hears loud, angry voices and the music transforms from symphony to a deep, throbbing bass and though she can feel its vibration, the dancers continue to smile and waltz as if unaware that anything has changed. Tom bends down and kisses her and when she opens her eyes she sees her father driving, the road disappearing beyond the headlights. Her mother laughs, leans towards her father and kisses him. When her mother jerks away Natalie is blinded by light and the sharp slice of the windshield into her head.

“What the fuck you think you doin’, whore?” Mason, Natalie’s boyfriend, says. He’d slammed her head against the brick building and she can feel the blood snaking down the back of her scalp. “You don’t get paid when you sittin’ here wit’ the trash.” He grabs her arm – his pale, dirty face replacing her mother’s, his laughter becoming louder as her mother’s fades away – and throws her into the street.

Natalie gets in the next car that stops, her only purpose to get enough money to score more crystal. Mason took her pipe. She has to replace that, too.

The man drops her off at the same corner he picked her up on Parker Street and she stuffs the twenty dollars into her bra and starts walking towards Bidder Street where she knows she can score.

“What you got this time, Nat?” Z says as he opens the door.

“Ten.”

“You look like shit.”

“I know, Z, please.”

Z walks into the kitchen and Natalie swipes a pipe off the small table in the living room. He comes out, hands her a small bag, and she pulls a ten out of her bra before walking out the door.

Natalie walks down the alleyway off Parker Street and slides in between the dumpster and the brick building before sitting down. She hopes Mason won’t find her here, but even if he does, she has his ten dollars, so he can fuck off. She lifts the pipe to her lips, feel the burn as she hits it, and smiles at the feeling, at the darkness, at the relief.

But then the spinning started, the car in flames, her mother’s screams, her father trying to get her mother free, the cool grass calming Natalie’s burning face. She can’t move, can only watch as her mother’s screams fade and her dad collapses. The fluorescent lights click on and off as Natalie floats down the halls of the hospital, loud voices all around her.

Somebody’s angry, yelling. Her dad. Drunk again.

“Get out. You look just like your goddamn mother. I can’t do this anymore. Get the fuck out.”

Natalie walks out the door of her home, the sound of the deadbolt fastening behind her.

Lights are clicking on and off, on and off, blue against the walls.

“Hey, get up.”

Someone grabs her arm, but gently. Natalie can’t see, her eyes unable to focus. She is confused by the scratchy sound of people talking and the bright lights. A man pulls her out from behind the dumpster and she tries to focus, tries to force the shadow into light.

“Daddy?”

 

*This was an assignment for class. I attempted to immitate the style of Chekhov’s Sleepy.

**This post is part of #FridayFlash which can be found by following the link or searching the hashtag on Twitter.

Reclaiming of the Soul

Soulyard

All that is left of her is the reflecting moonlight on her midnight hair. The rising mist has swallowed the rest of her and her silken cape. 

“Serena,” I yell, my voice crumbling with the leaves beneath me. 

Where could she be going so late at night? What could be so urgent? 

The moon shines – a flashlight in a dark, musty basement – catching the skeletal trees as they chant their secrets to the blackened sky. 

I know I must follow her, but I am afraid of the slithering shadows and their sharpened claws. 

“You must go to her now.” 

I swirl around and around searching for voice. 

“I can only protect her for so long.” 

It is the mist that speaks. 

I run now, into the forest, my bare feet leaving permanent impressions in the yielding floor. The trees move as I come upon them, opening a passageway, their bony fingers pointing the way. 

The mist begins to clear and I see her now, fallen, sobbing. 

“Serena, what has happened?” 

She looks at me with silver eyes and I turn away in fear. 

Her crying becomes ragged echoing off the tombstones and edges into a howl. I know I must save her, but how? 

I follow her crooked finger as sparks make contact with a metal object against a tree. 

A shovel. 

I run towards the tree, picking it up, and run back to her as quickly as I can. 

Her finger again shoots deep, blue sparks burning a circle into the forest floor and I begin to dig, somehow knowing this is something I must do. 

Clank! Clank! Clank! 

I bend down and wipe the surface of a rusted, metal  box. 

Here lies… 

The rest I cannot see. 

She pulls a large, iron key from her cape and slides it into the box. 

An explosion of light blinds me and I fall against the ground. 

She speaks: 

Oh dearest, fairest light

you know what is right

bring back my gift of sight

this enchanted, moon-filled night

and I will leave without a fight. 

If you turn against me

I will never, ever flee

bring to you such misery

take what’s mine away from thee

and forever you will cease to be. 

She repeats again and again. 

And the struggle between light and dark begins.

 

Inspired by Soul Food Cafe’s Halloween Prompt “Three”

 

Due to popular demand I have decided to remove this last paragraph from the story and place it down here so that you can still read it 🙂

I awaken in the softness of my bed. Morning broke. 

That was the strangest dream I have ever had. 

I stand in front of the mirror curling my crooked fingers around the handle of my silver brush raking it through my silky, black hair, my eyes a smoky, smoldering hue of gray.