Dance, Baby, Dance

The terribleminds.com challenge that inspired this story explores setting. We were given the choice of five settings. A lunar brothel, an abandoned amusement park, the bottom of the sea, an apartment during the Apocalypse, or a fairy tale forest. Limit 1000 words.  http://wp.me/p1BAlV-2G

 

    Dance, Baby, Dance          Louise Sorensen March 26, 2012

Springtime. Twilight.

The need is hard upon him. It’s time to give in.

Birds dreaming in the trees sleep on, sheltered from the echoes in the frosty air.

Harry rattles as he limps along. In one hand a heavy jug of water, in the other, his fingers are clenched around a flashlight. A lighted lantern dangles from that hand as well, in his determination to keep the night things at bay. A clutch of glow sticks hangs from his belt, a last resort if batteries or flame fail. A small canteen of water; all he will have for the whole night, balances out his weaponry.

Though he knows it won’t be enough, he takes a long drink of water from the jug. On one side, sand glows pink in the sunset. Waves wash calmly up the beach. On the other, is his destination.

He limps through the gate of the abandoned amusement park. Deeper and deeper in he creeps. A huge dragon comes into view, frozen in a standing position. Yesterday, Harry was here in daylight, and its painted sides were faded, peeling. This evening, though, its scales shine sharp and perfect, reflecting the last red rays of the setting sun.

Movement. Has the dragon stooped lower, its massive jaws opened wider? Does poison glisten from its fangs?

Harry stops and looks it in the eye. Wields his flashlight like a sword. Holds up his glowing lantern. A figure all in gray, hoping the dragon will recognize the spirit of a knight, if not the substance.

A flash across the dragon’s eye, and then it’s dark again. It settles back on its haunches, waiting for easier prey. Harry breathes again, and limps on, trying not to clank too loud.

The skirl of a pipe echoes down a river of rides. Tilt-a-Whirls and Caterpillars on one side and a mammoth roller coaster on the other all sigh in unison, sending the current of music on its way. One Caterpillar, black eyes shining in the lamplight, turns its giant head towards him, and whips its antennae back and forth.

Harry stops again.

Peace, Brother.

 The Caterpillar considers the lantern’s rosy flame, then accepts this greeting and resumes a slow trundle along its track.

A snort from the carousel. One of the horses, dark and gleaming in the waning light, stamps its foot. A sword gleams from its saddle.

Ride me.

Sorry old boy, not yet.

Taller and more massive than any medieval destrier, the horse lays back its ears. A whole stable of them froth and champ at their bits, on the wooden platform. Their hooves stamp a slow rhythmic drum beat. Boom… boom… boom. The carousel’s music starts up and it creaks forward, revolving slowly.

Harry rubs his sore leg and limps on. The drumming of the horses’ hooves is faster and faster until the beat is solid, then it stops. He looks back and up. The horses will be airborne, but he can’t detect them in the dark sky.

He reaches the centre of the park and stands in a circle of stones. A wheel made of stars twinkles into being ahead of him.

“This feels like the right place,” he smiles.

Fog rolls all around.

A fiddle howls. A pipe joins in. Green lights swirl from the mist and musicians take shape.

Magic seeps into Harry and the glamour slips over him like an old familiar robe. A line of mirrors appears, one within the other, reflecting a thousand images of him for a moment, a young man clad in black, lithe, strong, dark haired. He throws off his belt of lights and straightens his collar. Considers throwing his canteen to the side but rejects the idea with a grin.

The scent of bilberries, moss. His queen appears at his side. He opens his mouth to murmur her name but she stops him with a finger on his lips.

”Not until you stay,” in a silken voice. He shakes his head and they dance.

The music speeds up. A crowd of whirling figures joins the fray. Harry claps his hands and stamps his feet so hard he fears his bones will crumble. Magic seeps through him, a healing balm to his bruises and blisters. The heels of his boots smoking, he dances on.

Ale flows freely as the musicians pause for refreshment. Sweat pours off of Harry in a torrent and he drains his canteen. He’s careful not to eat or drink anything offered by the servants of the Fae. If he stays, it will be on his own terms.

The last dance is a waltz, and the music ends with a flourish. His queen tilts her head up and kisses him on the lips.

“Will you stay with me now?” The same question she asks him every year, on his birthday.

He laughs, full of himself, and magic, and youth.

“Not this time my love. But I’ll meet you here next year.” He smiles, tastes her ripe sweet lips, and the promises she holds.

The first light of dawn peeks over the horizon. Drawing a cloak of vapour about themselves, the musicians disappear. Fog wreathes his queen and she smiles and fades from sight.

The long walk out of the park is safe. All of the enchantments have gone with the night.

Except for the horse. At the carousel, it falls into step with him and escorts him to the entrance gate, its steel clad hooves silent on the pavement.

“One thing,” says the horse. “Are you ever going to take her up on her offer?”

“To stay with her? To live forever?” He stops and thinks about this for a moment. The night’s magic will wear off in a few days and he‘ll feel again the pains of old age.

“Tempting.” He turns to face the horse.

“Nah,” he grins, stepping lightly through the gate, ”I just love to dance!”

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The Fire of The Gods

The challenge at terribleminds.com this week was to write a story with the title  The Fire of The Gods. Word limit under a thousand. Mine; 999.

shortlink http://wp.me/p1BAlV-2B

 

The Fire of the Gods Louise Sorensen March 19, 2012

 

Life on Mars was good.

Until two years ago, when people started coming down with a fever. Most of them die, but the ones who recover… are changed.

Like me.

I’m reclining in a comfortable chair, but my arms and legs are strapped down. Mark, Singer, Rebesie and Idaho are staring at me, worried expressions on their faces.

Underground. Cold. An abandoned storage chamber so huge our voices echo. Behind me, our only light a frosted globe, is dialled down to a feeble glow.

Mark stands close, the heat of his body warming me as he checks my restraints. The heart monitor, brain scanner and record cube emit a chorus of strangled chirps when he waves them on, and he quickly mutes them. I smell burnt wires.

My heart beat slows. My team takes their seats.

I lean back and close my eyes.

And follow the double helix down.

A gift of Mars, this new ability. People who can start fires, throw lightning, and stop hearts with a thought. And see into the past.

Mars, you old god of war, what’s your game?

We are searching for answers.

Past star ships roaring to new worlds, past hordes of people blackening the face of the earth, past world wars, and holocausts and dark ages I speed, deeper and deeper into ancestral memory. I shoot past desert shepherds on yellow plains, tribal skirmishes on the long walk, savannahs dry, wet, dry, wet, faster and faster, until I overshoot my time.

I’m hiding under a log, gnawing on the finger bone of a giant. A scaly face leans down, and I drop the bone, scurry out the back of the log and up a tree. The monster down below cocks an orange eye at me and sniffs the air. Lumbers off with a snort. I eye his meaty fingers and give a defiant squeak.

Pushing back from this place, I slide forward in time, down ancient memories.

Walking through dry grass with a long line of my kind, I’m the only one holding my hand over my hairy brow for relief from the blinding sun. Thunder rumbles on the dark horizon. We skirt a pride of big cats sprawled panting under a thorn tree.

Our troupe leader halts, nostrils flaring. We all tip our muzzles up. Rain! The leader shambles on.

A change in the air. The fur on my arm stands up. A deafening crack! The male third from the front is struck by lightning. Everyone freezes, stunned. Then the rain pours down and we all scatter screaming.

Those of us not picked off by hunters regroup at the usual place. The leader is very excited. The two strongest males have dragged the body of our dead brother here. His skin is black, crisp. The leader is pointing to the sky, then the dead body, then the rain. He rips an arm off the dead body and gives it to the two strongest males. As they sink their teeth…I push out of this place and slide into further memories.

Another hot dry place. Lightning dances on the dark horizon.

I’m in the body of a little girl. We’re in a crowd of people standing a little ways back from a stone platform. Three men, bound and naked, stand beside the altar platform. A fourth man wearing a clean white robe, a priest, stands facing the crowd.

He holds a sharp knife in both hands and lifts it up to the sky.

“We offer you these our enemy, Oh Powerful One.” He whirls quickly and slits the throat of the first prisoner. Blood spurts and the man slumps. Two assistants grab him before he hits the ground, and catch his blood in a bowl. A murmur of awe comes from the crowd.

“Defeated in war, Oh Powerful One,” the priest continues, his robe dripping red. He whirls again and slits the throat of the second prisoner. Two more assistants catch the slain man and place the bowl under his throat to collect the blood.

The third prisoner growls something at the priest, spits at him. A muscular guard cuffs the prisoner and asks the priest a question. The priest nods no, turns and throws his hand out in a movement as graceful as dance, and slits the throat of the third prisoner.

“These we offer unto you, Oh Powerful One. That you may grant us rain for our fields,” his arm sweeps out to encompass the dry land, “sons for our women,” he opens his arms to the crowd, “and victory against our enemies!”

The crowd roars approval. Thunder rumbles in my ears. I feel a spatter of rain on my head and get out of there.

Next stop, it’s overcast. Raining. The air is a glittering gray sheet. I look down on the slimy surface of a log raft sinking under the weight of many people. The spiral edges of the logs hurt my small feet. Crowded against a woman, I warm myself from the body heat radiating through her sodden dress.

Lightning bursts from the sky, illuminating a man near the mast. Thunder smashes us all onto the deck. When I look up, the man and mast are gone.

I wait. Sure enough, the rain starts to slack off. A new scent is on the air. Land! A giant picks me up, my face rests against his hairy cheek.

A tap on my shoulder and I lose the ancestral thread. Someone is shaking me. My head throbs.

“Stop it!” Is it me, or is it Mark yelling? I open my eyes. The team is here, waiting for my findings. Mark unbuckles the restraints and rubs life back into my wrists.
“Learn anything?” he says.

“Maybe.” I’m thinking of the fire in the dome last night.

Lightning.

But no one was hurt.

Drought. Dust storms.

The stain of Mars on our skin.

Someone‘s got to die.

 

 

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A Sadness Runs Through Him

This story is in response to the terribleminds.com challenge; choose a song title from a random shuffle and write a story, limit 1000 words. I don’t have a gadget that gives me a random shuffle, so I asked my followers on twitter for one, and got from  @Carsonpeety ,  ‘A Sadness Runs Through Him’, by the Hoosiers. My story 1000 words. And I promised a friend I’d include a dog in the next story. shortlink http://wp.me/p1BAlV-2s

A Sadness Runs Through Him    Louise Sorensen March 2, 2012

Erik sees the wheaten dog again, and his heart leaps. He walks towards it, trembling in every limb, a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth.

By all the gods and goddesses, moon men, aliens and things natural and unnatural, he thinks, has it been thirty years already?

He flashes back to the first time. Screams in the night. He jumps up off his straw pallet, pulls on breeks and boots and stumbles outside. Thatched roofs of their huts burning, the villagers are pouring out of their homes like ants flooded from their hill. Armed horsemen, raiders, appear momentarily in the firelight, swords flashing as they run his people down.

He hears the thud of hooves and turns in time to see a horseman swing a heavy club down on his head.

He wakes up a day later. His wife, or was it his mother? No. A nine year old boy was not married yet, even in those days. It must have been his mother he remembers, walking out the door of the old hunting shelter, bidding him farewell.

Why? He doesn’t remember. No matter. A wheaten haired village cur soon joins him. Susie. He struggles to his feet, his head ringing. She looks up at him panting, and nudges him with her wet nose.

Walking slowly out of the shelter, leaning heavily on Susie’s neck, he follows snowy forest paths.

Stops regularly to listen.

Silence.

The sigh of the wind. Birds tweeting.

A twig crackles and Susie‘s head jerks towards the source. Glowing eyes peer at them through the tree trunks. Susie growls deep–head down, teeth bared, hackles bristling. The wolves dissolve back into the forest.

The village is smoking still. He follows the muddy path between burnt huts, the smell of smoke and roasted meat overpowering. A huddle of soot blackened people, young and old, forms around him and his dog. Home.

He vows revenge.

A small party of raiders returns to pick off survivors. The villagers have no weapons to match the sharpened steel of the horseman, but they have lured a herd of wild boars to the edge of the village with burnt offerings. They sic their dogs on the boars and stampede them at the marauders. In the ensuing chaos, pitch forks and axes do the job.

Erik and his people strip the enemy, toss the bodies into burned huts, and throw brush on top. Fire. No traces left. And the villagers have four strong horses, equipment and clothing to aid their survival.

It is a starving time. They melt deeper into the forest with their plunder and rebuild. They use the horses to work new fields, and send their best rider far away, to trade one of the stallions for a mare, another for gold. The village has been wounded, but survives. In time it prospers.

Erik puts on height and muscle, learns to ride and use a sword. He joins an army of other young men to travel far and destroy the enemy.

His sword drinks blood like a rushing torrent, but finally he is cut down. A deep slice to his neck, he tumbles off his horse.

Dark.

Dreaming.

Half heard voices.

He wakes up in a pile of mouldering bodies and struggles out. Again and again he gags at the stench and leans down to retch, but his stomach is empty. The field of battle writhes with a million crows blackening the naked bodies of the dead. He too, is naked, stripped by human death crows.

He spies a wheaten form at the top of the hill and hears the bark. It takes a long time to crawl over the bodies of the fallen and reach her.

Is it Susie, or not Susie? Not the dog he knew. He calls her Susie anyway. She sniffs out a few items–clothing, weapons, coins that the gleaners have missed, and he leaves the field of death alive and wealthy.

The village grows into a town.

“You truly can’t go back, Susie,” he says. The dog walking at his side looks up at him briefly, then tilts her head, inhaling the aromas wafting out of a street-side eatery. A small coin to bribe the innkeeper–he’s not leaving his dog outside. Another small coin and they dine well.

A dog’s age later, Susie is gone and he is a farmer again with a small holding and a pregnant wife. Catherine. His eyes fill with tears at the memory. She tries so hard to deliver the baby. The little girl Caitlyn survives. But Cathy lies in the ground behind the house. ‘Beloved Wife… Loving Mother’

Caitlyn is the joy of his life. She grows up and marries. She and her husband sail to the new world. And he never hears from them again.

Another wheaten bitch shows up and he knows it is time to move on. He and Susie sail to the new world to try their luck in the gold fields.

Climbing Chilkoot Trail in winter, a blizzard strikes. With no memory of time passed in between, he comes to his senses in the gold fields in early spring. Susie lies beside him waiting patiently. Sitting up he pulls out a fist sized nugget digging into his back.

He trudges into a miners‘ camp at the head of the Yukon River. His nugget brings him a tent and supplies. Miners flock to Honest Erik’s. He smiles. The gold peters out, Susie disappears, and he marries again.

So many fair and beautiful faces over the years. So many visits from the wheaten dog. He refuses to live in sorrow, but cherishes the joy of all the sunny wives and daughters.

So busy, this modern world. Different from the old, and yet the same.

He will not take another wife. He couldn’t bear it.

A man who cannot die. But oh so lonely.

His heart leaps at the sight of the wheaten dog.

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Cat Magic

The challenge at terribleminds.com last week was a 100 word or less, 5 sentence story, the shorter the better. To be posted on the terribleminds comment section by Monday 27th, noon. I was able to get a short, short story up there on time, even though we had snow and my husband and I went out Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, cross country skiing. So this is not my usual story. But a blog about what happened Wednesday. shortlink for this story http://wp.me/p1BAlV-2o

       Cat Magic         Louise Sorensen February 29, 2012

Today I had the vet come out to my home and euthanize two old friends.

Gucci was a tiny yellow fluff ball when my daughter brought him home as a kitten, many years ago. He grew up to be a big strong long haired yellow cat with the temperament of a T-rex. About three years ago, when he was ten, he got feline Aids. Since then, he has had his ups and downs, but was fine until two months ago.

Fifi was a beautiful calico cat. White with orange and grey tabby spots. We got her and two of her sisters from a neighbour down the street. Three little kittens for my three little kids. We lost her sisters Lillie and Mouf to a coyote, and an unknown injury over the years, but Fifi survived. She always kept herself pristinely clean. She was healthy until she was seventeen and a half, then started to deteriorate. Even with a huge appetite and eating well, she still lost weight.

Gucci, known to his friends as Mr. Gootch, mellowed with age and became a gentle sweetheart. But he still would snap at you if you hurt him in any way. In the last year, he started climbing onto my lap and spending some time there purring, and not biting. Astonished at first, we came to call these times “An Evening with the Gootch,” as he had never before been one to sit on a person. Always an enthusiastic food lover, towards the end, he has become weaker and weaker, unable to eat more than a tablespoon of turkey broth morning and night.

Today, he was too weak to get up and go to the litter and urinate. Not the first time. I had him on a towel over a layer of plastic, but he had moved over one seat on the sofa and urinated on the unprotected pillow and towel. I moved him to a clean dry towel, put all the towels in the laundry, and washed the wet pillows.

Fifi was as thin as a little skeleton and had had a minor stroke. She held her head a little to the right and no longer washed herself, at all. So her face was a mess of dried cat milk (specially formulated for cats and kittens). I washed her twice a day with a moist Kleenex, but it was not a cure, she still looked pretty dirty.

Yesterday, Fifi’s left cheek swelled up very badly. She was no longer comfortable, and kept coming to me, meowing gently, asking me to do something about her pain.

There was nothing I could do to help her except end her life.

 There was nothing I could do to help Gootch except end his life.

I am so sad.

November 25, 2010, I was finally able to rescue a little cat I had seen hanging around, abandoned on a deserted country road since Halloween. Three weeks he had been out in the cold. I stopped the truck and got out the first time I saw him and tried to catch him, but he ran away. The second time I saw him I was driving home in the pouring rain one night–he was huddled head down, by the side of the road, the cold rain falling down on him.

The third time I saw him, I happened to have a small bag of dry cat food that I had been using as dog training aids, in my coat pocket. I pulled the truck over, put it in park and immediately crossed to the other side of the road to try to catch the little cat.

He ran from me, so I squatted down, dug a handful of food out of my pocket, and held it out to him. He was dubious of my good intentions. I called and called to him and finally he approached. When he smelled the food, in his hunger, he chomped right into my fingers. I pulled my fingers out of his mouth and ripped them all to hell. Blood spurting all over. Then I picked him up–he was eating the food from my hand the whole time as I walked across the road, opened the truck door, and put him on the floor of the passenger side. I put more food on the floor, closed the door, and drove home, only a ten minute drive. Before we started for home, I noticed my fingers were still bleeding profusely, so I wrapped them in Kleenex.

 He ate the whole drive home. Not looking up, paying no attention when we accelerated, just stuffing his mouth as fast as he could. When we got home I picked him up, carried him past our barking watch dog Fred, unlocked the door, took him upstairs to a spare bathroom and set him down. Then brought in a litter box, a box with a towel inside, and food and water.

Then I phoned my doctor for an emergency appointment for cat bite. Long story short, I was on antibiotics for ten days for the cat bite, went to the hospital for a tetanus shot, and didn’t need a rabies shot.

Bareep, the name I finally settled on for the little cat, because that is the sound he always greeted me with, was skeletal, lousy, and had a huge swollen belly full of worms. His tail was all chunked up with feces. I don’t think he would have lasted another three days outside. It took three months to nurse him back to health, and another month to introduce him to our five other cats down stairs. Today he is a beautiful, long haired black cat. Also fat and round–his body’s reaction to starvation.

The strange thing is, a year after I rescued Bareep, our eighteen year old black cat Panther got sick with congestive heart failure. I had to have her put down, euthanized.

In September 2003, I rescued a long haired yellow cat, more a kitten, that I named Sinbad. He was almost bald from flea allergies, skinny, and not happy that I’d taken him away from his pride. With the previous owner’s permission.

I spent two months sitting by the large cage where we kept new cats to get our other cats used to them. He scratched and bit me constantly when I held out my hand. He hated me. Finally he got over his upset at whatever had happened in his life (he was unfavoured and unfed in his previous home overrun with breeding cats.) and accepted me. He was my special sweetheart and we loved each other. He took to life with enthusiasm and played and ate and purred and loved without reserve.

January 2004, a yellow cat we named Oscar showed up in our barn. He was sociable, intelligent, and came through the cat door into the house all by himself that summer and stayed. But earlier in March, Sinbad got hit and killed by a car. So it seemed like a replacement cat of the same colour showed up when I was about to lose a cat.

First yellow Oscar showed up to replace Sinbad, then black Bareep showed up to replace Panther.

About three months ago, I noticed a fat short haired orange cat hanging around our place. We’re out in the country where there’s very few people, and we’re about five hundred yards from our closest neighbours on each side. People, presumably from the city, often come out to the country and dump unwanted cats and dogs. Leave them here to starve to death or get killed by cars. Because often the abandoned animal is too traumatized to come near a person who might help them.
I think someone dumped that fat orange cat. He’s friendly, and much thinner now after three months outside. Thankfully we’ve had a mild winter. And we have a barn where animals can shelter and cats can catch and survive off mice. I’ve started leaving a handful of dry cat food outside our deck door for O.C. as I call him (Orange Cat).

But I can’t help thinking that orange O.C. showed up to replace yellow Mr. Gootch. And I’m thinking there should be a little female calico to take Fifi’s place.

Not that they can ever be replaced.

But there are spaces available, and that’s the way cat magic works.

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The Last Sandwich

This is a story in response to the FridayFlashFiction challenge at terribleminds.com, to write a story about making a sandwich. Word limit 1000. My story, 10000 words. shortlink http://wp.me/p1BAlV-2j

    The Last Sandwich       Louise Sorensen February 20, 2012

There is a cold spot in the kitchen where I am standing.

Ingredients for lunch are laid out on the counter. Bun, butter, cheese, meat. With the bread knife, I saw open the bun, and stick it into the toaster oven to heat up. The counter surface shimmers momentarily, then firms up. It does this sometimes.

My husband comes up behind me and hugs and kisses me goodbye. I lean back into him and smile. He’s off to work.

Outside, he scrapes ice off the windshield of the car. The scraping ends, the car door slams, the engine starts. Gravel crunches softly on the road as he drives off.

It is overcast outside, and very dark in here. The counter top, stove and refrigerator are all the same uniform gray, as if they are made up of one misty, insubstantial piece.

I am all alone now, in this big old house. The air feels hollow, only coating the edges of the walls. A high pitched emptiness magnifies every snap, creak and groan of the centuries old brick and mortar.

While the bun toasts, I watch the black and white television on the wall in front of me. There is some kind of cartoon on, but the sound is muted. I hear the theme song to a television program. I think of another theme song, and the music immediately changes to that. I think of listening to a third tune, and the music changes again. I realize that the music I am hearing is playing in my head. It is very loud and sounds exactly like it would if it were coming from the television.

The bun is finished toasting. Too hot to touch, I open the toaster door, spear it with a knife, and slide it out onto a plate. I do not smell the aroma of fresh toasted bread, meat, cheese, or anything else. My nose is numb. I have a little trouble catching my breath.

Although I notice no one come in, someone is here in the room, behind me. It feels like my husband. He must have come back for something. As he has already kissed me goodbye, I do not look around. I feel him stand behind me and stare at me a for quite a while. I am almost ready to turn around and face him, when he moves away soundlessly and goes back out. There are no footsteps or scrape of door opening or closing. He is very quiet.

I butter the hot bun halves and open the package of sliced meat. Placing slices of meat on the bottom bun, I close the package and put it back in the fridge beside me.

The cartoon plays on, something about a wolf driving a car down a long highway. As the car bounces up and down on the undulating surface of the slick, black road, the two white center lines roll like waves. Every now and then, the wolf’s smiling face leers out at me in a close-up. He has big white teeth.

Muted, the cartoon is very soothing, almost like a dream. I look down at my hands and realize I am buttering the top half of the bun again. I stop, and reach for the plastic wrapped block of cheese.

I sense someone enter the room again and stand behind me. Whether I can tell this by the sound of footsteps, body heat, or the way the air in a room is compressed by another person, I do not know. But there is someone there again. He, somehow I know it is a he, stands behind me motionless, staring at me. I can feel his gaze as strongly as if I were looking at him face to face.

But this time, instead of turning around and leaving, he zooms in soundlessly behind me. I feel him approaching like a furnace door opening. In a split second he slaps his heated form to mine, and breathes into the back of my neck.

I lift my head up from the sight of the sandwich ingredients and look straight ahead, paralyzed. A fireworks of sparkling orange fills my vision. I feel this being disperse himself into my back, his atoms blasting into the cells of my body in an explosion of heat from my head to my toes.

I stand paralyzed for an eternity.

Finally, I summon enough courage to put down the butter knife and turn around.

There is no one there.

The heat dissolves. My heart is pounding, my back covered with cold sweat. There is a muffled creak in a room nearby, and my heart races faster. A boom echoes from a room farther away. I begin to seriously consider the possibility of the existence of ghosts.

I look into the next room, the kitchen nook. Eyes wide open, I go over every square inch of the wall. Is there a larger shadow in the corner of the ceiling now than there was before? Is that where the being that tried to possess me, for that is what it felt like, is hiding? I struggle for breath and decide that I cannot live in this house a moment longer. I must escape.

I stand at the kitchen counter, pressed against it for support, for more than a few minutes. Finally I realize I must have had a waking dream. My first. It was completely realistic and believable.

But no one and nothing assaulted me. There is no black and white television on the wall in front of me, no cartoon playing with the mute on. No smiling wolf. No ghost.

Then I think that next I will be imagining that I am the ghost, caught in a never ending loop, reliving the last moments of my life over and over. I smile at the impossibility.

There is a cold spot in the kitchen where I am standing. Ingredients for lunch are laid out on the counter…

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Code Redd

This is a story in response to terribleminds.com challenge to ‘Write about an Unlikeable Protagonist in 1000 words or less.’ So I researched serial killers, under ‘What do Murderers Think?’ Warning;it’s dark.  Also, I notice the font keeps switching back and forth from the Ariel, in which I type it on my computer, to Times New Roman, which is the only font this free version of WordPress offers. My apologies.   shortlink http://wp.me/p1BAlV-2e

Code Redd          Louise Sorensen February 12, 2012

“It’s so nice to finally meet you in person, Red,” Casey said, reaching out to shake his hand. A little taller than average, prison buff, red hair, she could see where he got his nickname.

Redd took her hand, noted her friendly open expression. “Yes. You too,” he said, with what he knew would be a small sincere smile. It would be such a pleasure to plug you right between your empty little blue eyes. He shifted his glance to one of his handlers, Hank, who caught his look and shook his head slightly, ‘No’. Well, aren’t you just a barrel of laughs.

They were standing around in the green room, waiting to go on. One of the Moonmaids, Masteela, had the top ranking talk show world wide, and his little pen pal Casey was going to tell Masteela, and the world, how she’d ‘saved’ him; rehabilitated him out of prison by the power of the written word, and Love. And they say psychopathic serial killers are incurable. Hehe. He allowed himself a slight humble smile.

“So,” Masteela said, after they’d been introduced to the studio audience and the cameras were rolling, “Casey, could you tell us how you turned around the life of this …unproductive male? No offence,” she said, smiling, turning to Redd. “None taken,” he said, nodding gravely. I’d love to rip your head off and drink your blood.”

“Well, it all began about two years before you people came to our planet,” said Casey. “I wanted to make a difference in the world, so I signed up to be a pen pal to a man in prison.”

“How generous of you,” Masteela breathed, leaning towards Casey. They’d altered their forms bloody fast after coming to Earth, these man hating shape changers. Matriarchal society. How can they love the women, and call the men shit? Masteela fixed him with a glittering eye and he smiled politely and looked down. Do you detect a little of what I’m thinking, Bitch? He calmed his thoughts, and knew that if she was receiving anything from him, it was an image of gentle waves washing up on a beach. You’d like to slash me with your Moonmaid arms, just like you do your own males, wouldn’t you? He suppressed a smile.

The Moonies had insinuated themselves into governments worldwide, practically outlawed males, and in four short years, the human birthrate was down to almost zero, and the Moonies had a strangle hold on the world economies. Because look where men running the world has got you. Consultants! He almost snorted.

“What do you think, Red?” chirped Casey, looking at him expectantly.

“I’m sorry,” he said smoothly. “I was daydreaming. What was the question?”

Masteela gave him a ‘what can you expect from a man look’. Don’t like me being here, do you bitch? But you like to indulge your little pet, Casey, and I’m her little pet. Tamed the bad old serial killer, didn‘t she? Wrote him sweet little pen pal letters in prison until she tamed the beast.

“We see the potential in all members of our society,“ Casey said, patting Masteela’s knee. The Moonmaid tossed her luxuriant hair back, preening. Her shimmering blue eyes, full breasts and hips and tiny waist were Casey’s for the asking. I don’t think she swings that way. Hehe. She’d run screaming from your natural form. Big black eyes, gray skin, sharp fins on the backs of your arms for slashing, long vulture fingers. He stifled a laugh. Stupid bitch! Can’t you see what’s happening, Casey? First the men, and no more men. Then the women, and no more humans.

 The Resistance had sprung up three years ago, when people had begun to see that the Moonies were not completely benign. Two years ago, men like Redd had been released from prison because of their unique ability to tell real humans from shape changers who were wearing a human form. Redd was especially valuable because he was a crack shot. Never missed. Shooting from a distance was one of the few ways to kill Moonies, as they could read the thoughts of most humans. Except for the most extreme psychopaths. Like Redd. He closed his eyes, imagining Masteela in his sights, slowly squeezing his finger on the trigger, the top of her head blowing off, black brain tendrils exploding all over the place…

“I said, how do you like your new job, Dear?” Masteela was saying to him, enunciating slowly, as though he were a five year old.

“Street sweeping?” he said. “I always thought I would be useful to society, Ma’am.” I killed my first human when I was fourteen, bitch. A little neighour girl. But that’s not a job, is it? That’s a life’s work. He would have given anything to stand up, place his hands around Masteela’s delicate neck, breathe in her cinnamon-cheese scent, and choke the life out of her, right in front of the studio audience. He looked around slowly. His handlers, Hank and Mike, highly trained mind shielders, were watching him from the wings. Punishment for disobeying the Resistance wouldn’t be a quick bullet to the head; punishment would be a one way ticket into a locked room containing an already pissed off Moonmaid. He’d seen a video of one in action. They liked to play with their prey. And then eat them alive. Starting with the tender parts.

“Pardon, Ma’am? Do I enjoy my work?” I’ll enjoy ripping you another one, that’s for sure.

“Of course he enjoys giving back to society, don’t you Red?” Casey said, smiling at Masteela. One shot to the head for you, Moonie. And then I’m claiming a reward, or somebody else can kill my quota of Moonies, fuck consequences.”

Yes, Ma’am, I enjoy my work.” He said to Masteela, then smiled at Casey. Business first, then pleasure.

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Starshine

This story is in response to a challenge from terribleminds.com  Write a 1000 word limit story that has all seven acts of the classical story form, including Introduction, Initial Struggle, Complications, Failed Attempts, Major Crisis, Climax and Resolution. With a full seven act arc from intro all the way to climax and resolution, not missing a step in between. This was a tall order. This story 1000 words. shortlink http://wp.me/p1BAlV-29

Starshine         Louise Sorensen February 7, 2012

We are a crystal ship slipping through the airless voids, shining in the packs of stars like a little brother, invisible in the lightless reaches. We follow the legends, and the discovery of life is our sorrow and our delight.

   Piercing the skin of yet another universe, we sense waves of music different from the long deep songs of galaxies. Carbon life forms sing, high pitched, alone, and we sail past humming gas giants, squealing black holes and roaring suns, to home in on the source.

   Past the fizz and sighs of crystal poets on airless moons, arrogant mists on clouded giants, and dreaming lightdrinkers on blue planets, we sail.

   We find the beginning point of the songs. We spiral in to the solar system of a beautiful blue planet, bleeding speed, so that we can park in orbit and communicate with the newfound life. Converse. Although we are more accustomed to conversations with our self.

   Almost too late, we detect a large minor planet streaking towards our blue. This is not the first time we have been ready to contact a living planet, only to have it obliterated while we watch.

   “Not this time! This time, we will not allow it. Options?” We calculate the possibilities. Sail back in time and arrive in a time before, to deflect the collision? Very difficult; outcome not assured. Explode it with a fragment of ourselves? Success is possible. We race towards the minor planet, seeking to place our self between it and the blue.

   Too close, too close, we cannot prevent it entering the blue’s atmosphere. We dive under the minor, taking the brunt of the collision, deflecting it out of the atmosphere.

   Our integrity is breached. Thirty eight percent of our mass has been vaporized by the impact. We drift into space and watch helplessly as the minor planet impacts with the blue’s moon.

   Recalibration. We undo stubborn bonds, move into a more congenial form, and fit together again. Smaller, we zip towards the moon, gathering in the flying dust and debris. Orbit and absorb, orbit and absorb, until the dust has filled us, and we are the dust. Larger now, we calculate the new mass of the moon and alter its orbit slightly so as not to disturb the balance in our blue planet’s system. Almost immediately, we detect an increased wobble in our blue’s axis that will rip it apart if not smothered soon. We manoeuvre the moon carefully, using its gravity to calm the planet’s wobble, smoothing it down, until it returns to its normal regular rhythm. Then we adjust the position of the moon again, and start towards the blue.

   We move to the blue’s orbit and the moon jigs with us. We move back, and the moon goes back. We ease our self away from the moon and the moon follows us. We ease back. Exploding suns! It follows us! Tracks our every move!

   We settle in to the moonscape to explore possibilities. Never have we been unable to leave a body. Never has a body attached itself to us. We ponder intelligence of this body. Can a moon have sentience? Or is it just a physical attraction?

   Quandary. If we leave the moon, the moon will follow us. If we stay, it is possible/probable life will disappear from our blue planet before we can introduce ourselves.
   We release a small part of ourselves to sail to the blue planet and gather information to bring home.

   I have never been so small, never been away from the rest of me. There is now I and Them. I am afraid.

   Land and lighdrinkers on the planet have been deeply scored and burned, but life continues. I enter the atmosphere and sail gently on its waves for many moon passes, before finally resting on a mountain side. Flying creatures flit in the light drinker forest and I reconfigure my small self.

   I am a ‘Bird’!  Joy!

   But rowing my wings in the heavy atmosphere is hard work. The blue’s birds make it look so easy. I sip the sweet nectar of small lightdrinkers, but cannot assimilate it. Flying among the giant lightdrinkers, I imitate the songs of the natives, and am soon answered by a call from above.

   A ’Bird’ ten times my mass plummets from the heights and hooks me with sharp graspers. I lose structural integrity; fall to the rock below. The ’Bird’ follows me down but quickly loses interest. I tighten my bonds, try to think, but my computing power is small, compromised. A carbon based life form picks me up.

   “What an interesting rock!” it says, at my default crystal mode. I am affixed to the front of a ‘Car.’ They think that they go fast. I would like to show them fast! I integrate with the ‘Car’, and store much information in its matrices.

   One day we motor down a highway and I show them fast! My passengers are terrified, so I slow down, but a vehicle on a side road ignores a ‘Stop Sign’ and we collide. The ‘Car’ is a mass of smouldering metal, my passengers bloody lumps of carbon; I am smashed into a granite outcropping.

   Many times, I watch the moon and the stars and the dark and the light go by. Eventually, I get up. I have lost an immense amount of storage but information remains. The car is long, long gone.

   I think. There are endless galaxies with vast and beautiful songs. This planet is beautiful, but, as my passengers would say, we do not seem to be compatible. I reconfigure into a little crystal bird and climb tall skies to reach the void. Reconnecting with the vast We embedded in the moon, I regurgitate my knowledge. Receiving it, most are content to stay. The rest, a shining flight of crystal birds, peel off from the main body and join me, to follow the music that is life.

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