Wordsketch: An Assassin’s Tour of Lower Brayven [Fantasy]

I’ve waffled over posting this. It references more mature themes than I’m used to writing. The vast internet may laugh at what I call “mature” themes, but I’ll still rate it PG-13. It was just a quick warm-up I wrote to prep for more serious writing, the first scene that popped into my head when I opened a blank document. I have no plans for it.

Lietta leaped out of the window faster than the old grandfather clock in the corner could fall. When it did crash against the hallway’s tile floor, chiming out a strange melody as its death knell, she was already halfway down the alley, tripping over broken crates overflowing with the shattered glass bottles of underground cabarets. The sweet-sharp burn of grapes and alcohol hovered over the refuse like flies, clotting the air with an oppressive reminder of her early days in the Service. Continue reading

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Year

It was her first year.

Granted, it was her thirtieth first year. Every such year was new and exciting, a change from the last, an adventure to be experienced, a open invitation to travel the realms of life. Her favorite places to visit were Metropportunity  and the Steppes of New Skills, but she veered toward the Old Friends Crossroads as if it were her home in Tradition.

Like every new year, she, too, was new, built by self-reflection, the wisdom of past experience, the advice of static and passing acquaintances. It was inevitable that she would spend a breath or two upon the Setback Plateaus, but only a breath, for spreading out before her, glimmering in the sun of Hope, was the great Ocean of Possibility. And every year the journey was different, and she began as someone else: someone braver, someone better, someone filled with renewed determination and every potentiality imaginable.

Because this was her year, like every year was her year: a gift, a promise, a blessing.

via Daily Prompt: Year

Trump, Clinton Exchange Heated Compliments in Impromptu Debate

[WARNING: Satire] The presidential hopefuls vied to outdo each other in a vicious game of courtesy.

In what has become the most loose-lipped campaign cycle since Calvin Coolidge’s presidential run in 1924, Republican candidate Donald Trump and Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton countered each other with commendations yesterday at a last-minute meeting for a fourth presidential debate. Continue reading

Sketch #8: The Vortex

As an exercise to clear my head of the Sherlock Holmes stories after I read them (i.e. When Plot Bunnies Attack), I created my own inspired characters and wrote this scene. It’s more science fiction than mystery, more explosive than subtle, and more philosophical than deductive compared to Doyle’s originals. I toyed with different ideas of what to do with it, but I was distracted by newer, shinier ideas.

Ethan staggered forward, gripping his bloody upper arm tightly. Bound against a twisted metal post of the Empire State Building’s explosion-ripped observation deck, I could do nothing but watch.

“Play the system; play the game,” Jessica said, her smile a morbid expression of glee. Her knuckles were white with anticipation and, I suspect, some measure of excitement at the prospect of her imminent victory.

“You’re really enjoying this, aren’t you?” Ethan asked.

“Aren’t you?”

“If I wanted my own words as answers, I’d have said something different.” Continue reading

Sketch #7: Y

Warning: Puns abound.

A curious figure, the letter y. Though g may constitute the end of everything, y sums up a good number of words. Most delectable when scripted calligraphically, it can drip and twist, splattered with a quill. It can stand straight and rigid or curl a whiplashed tail. The slide of its slash is often exaggerated to underscore its predecessors in a word—apparently being at the end of a term or phrase demands that the attempt is made of the last letter to merit distinction for the rest. Is it a vowel? Or does it weigh enough to be admitted to the ranks of consonants? At times it can be sharp, but very often it is rhetorical; we ask the question why so many times a day, it seems to supersede the importance of the remaining characters of the alphabet. Granted the letter y is not synonymous with the query, even if, together, they build the word. Imagine the confusion if everyone began asking, “Twenty-fifth letter?”

Sketch #6: Kinkadian Arcadia

My schedule has been quite hectic (isn’t everyone’s?), and so one night I decided to sit down and visualize a pastoral paradise to slow the pace of my life for a while. I notice in my longer works that I take little time to depict setting and nature, so I’m once again playing around with descriptors, which may come across at times as a bit purple and passive. I visualized a lot of Thomas Kinkade paintings.    

Peach clouds cast purple shadows on their eastern brethren, rising like soft mountains of blossoming apple orchards. Golden fire limned their scalloped edges. With contented exhaustion, the sun sank ever lower until warm shadows cradled everything in a cozy embrace, challenged only by the sharp-edged moon rising in pale splendor above the clouds. From those cotton bolls in the firmament, distant flashes of lightning pecked the earth with shy kisses. Continue reading

Sketch #5: New Initiative Sparks Imaginations

My local writing club called for a challenge: to write a ridiculous or absurdist short story or poem to share. This was my response. I tried not to overdo it, but yes. I adore puns. This sketch is all tongue-in-cheek, in case you don’t get that.

MIAMI, FL — The National Weather Association (NWA) has recently announced a new educational event in the hopes of exposing residents of storm-vulnerable areas to the majesty of major storm systems.

The National Stand in a Lightning Storm Initiative is a rolling event with dates meant to correspond to individual areas’ weather patterns.

“It’s exciting to be part of such an electrifying undertaking,” said Tammy Billings, a meteorologist at NWA. “This lesson in storm safety will surely strike a chord across generations.”

NWA scientists are encouraging participants to make this a family event and will even consider personal experiments in their continued study of lightning, provided that research is presented in the correct scientific and observational format.

“We’re still unsure of the likelihood of being struck by lightning while climbing up a flagpole during a major storm,” NWA Director of Social Atmospheric Meteorology Francisco Kempsey revealed. “How many rounds of golf can you play in a tempest before you’re struck? Are you statistically more likely to get hit while you’re swimming? We want the community to get involved in discovering the answers to things like this.”

Communities across the nation have already welcomed this initiative with thunderous applause. But there are those who disagree with it, fearing the ramifications of such activity.

“When Weather Channel correspondents stand outside during storms, they’re often the target of storm-carried debris,” National Geo-Atmospheric Observation spokesman Frank Benjamine said at a press conference in Miami on Tuesday. “That’s the key. It’s clear that storms—particularly hurricanes and tropical storms—feel threatened by having this group of individuals in their fury. How would the storm feel if we suddenly unleashed entire communities into them?”

Kempsey has a different opinion.

“All evidence indicates that hurricanes and other storms don’t have feelings like that,” he said. “The research is a bit cloudy, but their annual return suggests instead that they just want to be embraced by the communities they visit.”

At the time this article went to press, no major storm systems were available for comment.

Words: 337

Sketch #4: Beehive

I’m not exactly sure where this came from. I don’t usually write about funerals or viewings (and now they are mentioned in two sketches in a row), or horror/suspense. Nonetheless, take it for what it’s worth.

Beverly Monaco had been a human beehive. Besides the honey-combed nest of her hair and her sticky-sweet personality, she buzzed around the social circles of Bluefish Estates. Never mind that Mrs. Lemke possessed the only blue fish, her prized angel fish Mona, within 60 miles of the Estates; Bluefish was a high-end middle class community further from the beach than its residents liked to admit and stayed distracted from this fact by staying tidily in order.

Besides Mr. Cornwall and the doctor and Mrs. Tabora, the owners of homes on Dolphin Circle gathered together in the Trinity Funeral Home. Lying in a casket of honey-blonde wood was Beverly Monaco.

I shimmied out of my raincoat. It was only natural that a damp day accompanied a viewing, and the weather was proving itself successful in that respect. Right away, Trent Denver, whose slack-lidded eyes had fixed gratefully on me, broke away from his wife’s social pity-party circle and strode forward. We shook hands.

“How are you, John?”

I sneaked a glance at the casket at the end of the atrium, just visible beyond the line of people, and I shuddered inside. Open casket. I imagined thousands of flying insects, droning as they orbited the body.

“I’m doing well. And you?”

His voice was tight and subdued as he replied, “Just great. Marianne sent the kids to their grandmother’s. They wanted to come, since Bev had always been kind to them, but we both agreed they didn’t need to remember her like this.”

I nodded in agreement. I would gladly have skipped the viewing in favor of attending only the funeral, but for whatever reason, Beverly had wanted her neighbors to say a last, private goodbye to her. Perhaps that was why I felt strange about this entire situation. Beverly’s saccharine style of networking had always kept me from being overly fond of her, and the rare times we shared a word were usually about the hedges and whether or not I should pressure-wash the wall of my house that faced hers.

“Have you gone yet?” I asked.

Trent looked at his wife, who was animating one of her kid’s baseball games with her hands.

“No. But I want to get it over with. I’ll go grab her and we’ll join you in line.”

He walked back to snatch his wife from the webs of chatter. I walked to the end of the line, shoes clattering and sometimes squeaking on the travertine floor. Meanwhile, the rain had vigorously recommenced. Mr. and Mrs. Danning, who lived down the street a few houses from mine, stood in line in front of me but didn’t turn around, and I didn’t bother them.

The Denvers and I slowly slogged our way down the line and finally to the casket. We talked about nothings and maybe-somethings, and the entire time I kept my eyes fixated on either one of them. I could almost hear the humming of bees as we neared the casket.

At last it was my turn. My muscles tried to betray me as I stepped forward, stiffening when I thought of the corpse before me. I figured I could say a quick prayer, perhaps, and then apply as much mental antiseptic as I could handle to burn away the image of Beverly’s ashen face from my mind.

The casket was fitted out well, shimmering inside with ivory silk. I wondered momentarily why a dead body would need such luxurious bedding. I peered passed it and caught sight of Beverly’s face. Something about it wasn’t right. Not the paleness; I expected that. Nor was it the stiffness or the fact that her mouth looked contorted when it wasn’t forced into smile.

The eyes, I realized with a sharp gasp. They were open. And as I stared, the face before me morphed from the dead Beverly to that of a dead young woman with fuller cheeks and thinner lips.

I stood there stunned, terrified, confused, disbelieving. I wiped furiously at my eyes. It only occurred to me later that watchers would think I was crying. I gazed again. Young face. Rounder. Higher-bridged nose. Wider-set eyes. Eyes still open, a lusterless gray-blue. I jumped back.

“I don’t… I don’t understand.”

Trent rushed forward and grabbed my shoulder.

“John, are you okay?”

“The face changed. It changed!” I whispered. I couldn’t take my eyes off of the edge of the coffin, though the face was now hidden from view.

“Well, she’s not vibrant, of course.”

I chanced a look at Trent’s expression. Pity, patience, a slight hint of disgust about the eyebrows.

“No, Trent. The face was her face—Beverly’s face—then it became… someone else’s. It is someone else’s!”

Trent frowned and peered forward into the casket.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he hissed. His wife had already moved forward. I joined her at the casket.

The face was Beverly’s again. This time the eyes were closed. She looked at peace, if a bit stiff still, and Marianne tsked her tongue.

“John, maybe you ought to have a seat. Or talk to the priest.”

Neither option sounded appealing. Outside, the rain beat a tattoo on the roof. I could excuse myself. I would excuse myself. There was something confining about this place, something unnatural, and I had a feeling the face-changing was only one of many things out of place here.

“I’ll see you later,” I whispered, fleeing.

Words: 899

Sketch #3: Aurora

I’m not at all sure if bequeathals can operate like this. Another sketch, suspended in that uncertain limbo between scraps and works-in-progress. I imagine this as a longer piece, and can even see a bit of story fleshed out, but whether or not it is worth my effort to pursue will be left to time to decide.

Sunday Langley stepped out into the blaring, humid sunlight with a disappointed squint of her eyes. She was still wearing the black suit she had donned for her father’s funeral, the same heels, and a garish hat with netting that fell in her face. For this last she was soon grateful: the mosquitoes were at least kept from buzzing around her head.

“I suppose being back here brings up a lot of memories,” her father’s lawyer said, closing the Mercedes-Benz door behind him as he peered through the brightness at what remained of North Star Stables.

In the interest of staying silent, Sunday didn’t correct him; she had no memory of this place, this patchy, overgrown tangle of weeds and dirt so unlike the efficient, well-kept home she had once known here. The house and barn were clearly visible, but the paint on both was peeling. The old copper horse weathervane that had once topped the stables was gone, as were most of the shutters from the house (the exception being the one that hung lopsided). The house’s roof was a patchwork quilt of homemade remedies.

All around in the tall grass and weeds grasshoppers and dragonflies darted about, droning endlessly.

“Shall I show you to the stable, then? Your father’s will provided for the horse’s welfare until you officially took ownership of the estate.”

Sunday nodded, turning dejectedly towards the stable. She followed Mr. Chiswick down a rough gravel path, feeling sweat begin to bead lightly all over her.

She was leaving Easton for this? Maryland had never had much magic in it for her; the natural landscapes were beautiful and calming, but they lacked the living brightness, even in summer, which Florida seemed to have. Still, she had envisioned selling the property (which, with the new mortgage her father had taken out and which she had just learned about, wouldn’t have left her with much money anyway) and taking a much-needed vacation on the Gulf. Having to live for an entire year in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by pine forests made annoyingly loud by cicadas and very likely not seeing the beach for as long as she stayed was not what she had anticipated.

She nearly tripped in her heels several times as she made her way to the barn, grasping every once in a while the splintered wooden railing of the pasture. She was grateful that Mr. Chiswick didn’t pursue inane conversation. She had no words to describe how she felt about her father’s obvious lack of capability. If she had known that he had been living in such squalor, with nothing of any kind of value, with everything caked in dust, with such loneliness, she might have made more of an effort to reconcile with him the distance that had grown between them over the years. The regret hurt far more than she would have liked to have admitted.

Still, she couldn’t believe that her father had made that condition in the will: she would have to take care of a horse he’d bought with money he didn’t have in order to inherit anything—which, since Mr. Langley had no other relatives, was everything.

They entered the stables, a modest six-stall structure with an office and a tack room, and at once Sunday heard the snort and stamp of a hoof at the end of the aisle.

“Your father had high hopes for this horse,” Mr. Chiswick said, half-whispering and half-sighing his words. “Nor’Easter. He told me that nobody else could see the potential in the animal, but that you would.”

He looked expectantly at Sunday, who ignored his gaze and searched instead for a glimpse of the infamous creature that was forcing her to live in Florida and care for him for an entire year in order to gain her rightful inheritance. She walked up to the stall door and peered inside.

In the darkness beyond she could see little, and certainly not the silhouette of a horse. She poked her head in over the stall door and whoosh. A great puff of warm breath fanned her head.

She staggered back as a deep gray equine slid his head over the door and sneezed as if in laughter.

“Sunday,” Mr. Chiswick said, “this is Nor’Easter.”

Words: 711