In A Flash: Dime Novel Denouement

This moment does not seem to be a moment. It seems endless, interminable. An internment camp. The holding pen before the gulag. Devoid creatures wander through the night along empty streets, straying from the light. I am one of them now.

Rain begins to fall, softly at first, and then in staccato bursts. I scuttle across openings, clinging to the security of the damp mildewed walls. There are eyes everywhere, but none look for me. I am worth nothing to anyone. No price will be paid. Yet, I refuse to expose myself. I am no martyr, whatever else I may be.

You speak and I shiver and clutch my hands in my pocket. This parched feeling that holds and won’t let go. I fight for words; silence is like a wound, like a lie I always tell. You do not care whether I speak or stay quiet, all you care is what I do.

The thousand betrayals of a life leave the birth of the malformed. I’ve clawed at my own skin, it does not fit right. Nature seems dead and wicked dreams abuse.

***

I’m looking for a taste of ecstasy, I’ve had delight and it lost its potency. With you at my side on this long, damp and dark road.

I long to taste the sunrise in your mouth, as my tongue slides past your teeth and the morning dew is fresh on my lips. I want to smell your sweat on me, the heat of my flesh on the heat of yours, shivering, shimmering to a glow.

Oh, to look upon you now, through the blur of the rain. If I could take you in this doorway I would. Continue reading

In A Flash: The Warder

Xan the Warder stared at the newcomer with a skeptical eye. The man was a sorcerer of some kind, to judge by his robes. Xan knew little of magic, but enough to know that its users were not to be trusted. They were fiends, as likely to summon some demon from the depths of the many earths as to cast a curing spell and mend a broken leg. She had heard tell of a man, desperate in his affections for a woman, who had begged a wizard for a love potion, only to find himself short six coins of the realm and madly in love with a toad.

“What brings you this way, stranger?” Xan said. She swept the cloak back from her shoulders and let her hand rest upon her sword. A message of sorts.

The newcomers gaze followed the movement of her hand and a small grin touched his lips. “I’ve heard the air in these parts is restorative.”

“If you can restore something that’s been froze solid with your magic, then perhaps it might be,” Xan said, looking out over the frigid wastes that extended in all directions before her.

The newcomer laughed, his breath clouding the air. “My name is Ves. You are?”

“The Warder,” Xan said, refusing to be enticed by his friendliness. The wind swirled around them and the sorcerer shivered.

“Where’s the prison?” Ves said.

“Do you think I’m a fool?”

Ves laughed again. “I suppose not. It is a rather remote clime for a prison, wouldn’t you agree?”

Xan did not reply, staring hard at the sorcerer.

Ves shrugged, as if he could not understand her reluctance to talk. “Come now, Warder. Surely you must get bored being here, all alone in the cold? I’m only asking for a moment of your time.”

Xan rolled her eyes. “No one comes here to pass the time. I’m not much for conversation. Get to the point.” She moved her hand to the pommel of her sword.

“Easy now,” Ves said, holding up his hands. “Don’t you think you should be careful? You don’t know what kind of sorcerer I am.”

“It doesn’t matter,” Xan said, her voice sounding of death.

Ves smiled. “If you say so. You needn’t worry about me anyway, Warder. I’m just here to meet someone.”

Xan had to resist a laugh. “I doubt there is someone else in the realm foolish enough to wander out onto this wasteland for a chat.”

“But there is,” Ves said, gesturing with his hand as if to point out the person.

Xan followed the movement of his hand and the world went black.

She blinked, worried for a moment that the sorcerer had put a sleeping spell upon her. But it was just that the light had gone from the sky, which, now that she thought about it, was considerably more concerning than a mere sleep spell. The light returned a moment later, the vast wasteland of ice, snow and rock, appearing again before her.

The sorcerer, however, was gone.

Continue reading

In A Flash: Joe’s Shoe Repair

There was a place on 14th called Joe’s Shoe Repair. It had a small storefront, with a two storey ranch style house erupting out behind it, as if a tumor had metastasized in the shop’s rear wall, resulting in the development of some entirely new construction. Or perhaps it was the other way around, perhaps the home’s front porch had metamorphosed into a square, simple store. Either way, it was an oddity on a stretch of road dotted with strips malls, fast food joints and flat-roofed, anonymous buildings inhabited by lawyers and plastic surgeons and convenience stores.

Frank had noticed its incongruity driving by a few times before, but it was only when he moved into the neighborhood and began making regular trips to a nearby convenience store, for smokes and lotto tickets, that its angularity struck him as truly peculiar. Stranger still was the fact that the store was never open. There were a number of shoes and boots set out against window, displaying Joe’s handiwork no doubt, and he could clearly see a counter with a ancient-looking till and various tools of the trade set out on it.

None of their positions ever seemed to change—something Frank made a point of looking for after the first few times he went by. The lights were always off in the store, with an ever present closed sign hanging on the door. He never saw lights in the house behind either, though the shutters were always closed, so it was difficult to say for sure.

“That’s a front if I’ve ever seen one,” Frank would say to all his friends, though what it might be fronting he could not say. It just didn’t seem possible that the owner could let a piece of real estate like that sit idle and useless. There had to be a reason. “Joe ain’t fixing no damn shoes, let me tell you.”

His friends would nod and shrug at these pronouncements. What did it matter what went on in the place, odd as it was? But Frank could not let it go. The constantly closed store, the shuttered windows, the absence of any human activity on a busy stretch of a humming city, all worked at his mind until his fascination was absolute. He found reasons to pass down the street, would take walks by it even in the bitter depths of winter, just to see if there was any change. For over a year, there was none.

That all changed one long summer evening, the sun still setting after ten, and the air languorous. Frank walked by on his way to get a pack of cigarettes and saw the door to the house, off to the side of the storefront, standing open. He stopped to stare at it, almost unable to believe what he was seeing. Before he had a chance to think any further, he walked past the store, up the steps of the narrow porch, and into the house. Continue reading

In A Flash: On Down The Road

“Thanks for coming Cliff,” Walter said as they both climbed into the pickup, the dog nestling at Cliff’s feet.

Cliff nodded, but did not reply. The day was hot and the truck, which had been sitting out in the sun, was hotter and his back was already damp with sweat. He rolled down the window and rested his arm gingerly against the scalding hot metal. The dog looked up grinning at him, in spite of the uncomfortable position it had contorted itself into.

Walter rolled down his own window and started the truck, humming to himself as he did. The radio, as always was tuned to 770, the talk radio station from Edmonton. In afternoon’s, which it was now, Rutherford was on. Cliff found him insufferable. Walter did too, but he enjoyed listening to him. Enjoyed disagreeing and getting annoyed and laughing at how wrong he was.

Walter headed out to the road and turned north, the dust from the gravel leaving a broad wake behind them. It had been a dry year, the pastures were already more brown than green, and the green of the fields was fast turning to yellow. Harvest would be only a couple of weeks away, or sooner, if the warm weather held. It would be a poor one as well—there had been little rain that spring and none in the summer. Walter said it was as bad as he had seen it, as bad as when he was a kid in the thirties.

“I just don’t feel comfortable heading up to the pastures by myself anymore,” Walter said, as if the silence of the last minutes had not happened. “Not as young as I used to be. Of course, before I would’ve taken Jane.”

Cliff opened his mouth but did not reply. He didn’t know quite what to say, didn’t have the words. Jane had been Walter’s wife for over fifty five years. She had died the summer before, a summer as hot and dry as this one.

Clliff didn’t have to say anything though. Walter kept talking, as he drove down the road at an ambling pace.

“That calf is probably dead, but we have to go see if we can find it. Might’ve just gotten separated from its mother. I remember we had a heifer, got her head stuck between the branches of a tree and couldn’t figure out how to get out. Almost died before we found her.”

Cliff nodded. He had heard the story before, as he had heard so many of his grandfather’s stories. In spite of the open windows on the truck, it still felt stultifying. Or perhaps it was just the same old conversations, the same old trips down the same old roads. That fall he would be off to university. He was counting the days until he would be free of this tedium. Life felt as though it were happening somewhere else, while he chased after presumably dead calves in pastures somewhere off in the middle of nowhere. Continue reading

In A Flash: Only Love Can Break Your Heart

“Hi. Anjali?” A lopsided grin and uncomfortable eyes.

“Yes,” she says, her own eyes downcast, but taking him in all the same. “You must be Ryland.”

“That’s right.”

A pause, both of them waiting for the other to speak. They both start at the same time and stop together, wincing.

“Shall we?” Ryland says, gesturing and gulping for air.

Anjali nods and leads the way to the nearest table. They sit across from each other, taking the measure of the situation. A buzz of conversation settles over them, reminding each of them of their own silence. They look away at others, trying to ignore the awkwardness.

A waitress flits by and smiles conspiratorially. “How are you guys tonight? Can I get you started with some drinks?”

Relief. They order. He gets a beer and she has a mojito. The waitress nods, pleased by their choices and disappears. Ryland watches her go, before reminding himself not to and turns his attention back to Anjali.

“So, how was your day?” he says with an attempt at joviality. He winces at the sound and hopes she doesn’t notice.

Anjali suppresses her own grimace. These same damn questions. “I’m just glad it’s the end of the week.”

“Any big plans?” Ryland says, not wanting to lose the momentum he feels he has started.

Anjali shrugs, knowing she can’t say she will most likely spend the day on the couch in her pajamas watching Criminal Minds reruns. “I’m just getting together with some friends.” A safe, non-specific lie. “What about you?”

“Not too much planned,” Ryland says, considering and rejecting several possible answers, none of which involve him staying up until two in the morning playing video games and drinking beer with his roommate. “I was thinking of going on a bike ride on Sunday.”

The waitress arrives with their drinks and asks if they would like food. The both decline and she leaves them alone. Anjali asks about where he likes to go biking and he provides an overly long, detailed answer that he knows is utterly boring her and yet he cannot stop himself from seeing through to its end. He asks her what she likes to do for fun and she tells him something.

God this awkward, she thinks. This isn’t going as badly as I thought, he thinks. Continue reading