Posts Tagged With: Short Story

Sneak Peek at where I’m going: Angel Mine, Devil Twined

Juliet Notions

The end of my road turned out to be somewhat similar to the beginning; a fork with two paths, no signs, and a dark fog camouflaging the distance. My knees trembled as with any normal human. This, in and of itself, was something to be noted. When I first stepped on to this planet, wingless and bloodied, I hadn’t hesitated to choose a course and follow it, but eons had the propensity to change a person.

A person, humph.

I’d seen beasts become man, and then revert back to a perverted version of their origins. They used every means to destroy love at its foundation, cannibalizing gifts through high ambition and ever lessening compassion until the last of them fell. Though I tried to carry him here so this choice would not be mine alone, he fought as they all fought to push me away; and so I stand alone, deciding which road—allow them to begin again or send the whole of humanity, all the renewed promise of their future, to oblivion.

“No one being should be responsible for such a decision,” I said to an unresponsive sky, and then sat on a rock to eat the very last apple.

The road behind me had evaporated the closer I came to the fork. No going back, no way to figure out the course forward. A child cried in the back of my mind, a hopeless scream of sorts, eerie in its echo out to lifeless arms. No one had been left to hold her, so she lay beside the shells of her dead parents and wept. Soon after her tears ended the cold night blanketed her bone bare body, stealing one final breath.

As tragic as her passing, I envied it. She was the last child ever born and perhaps the final for this next cycle of eternity. Knowing the pain of her end made my choice a tearing and brutal one. If I allowed them to exist again, how could I be certain they’d be wiser?

In the hills many miles and years back, an elderly woman had invited me in to rest at her cabin for several days before continuing my journey. Deep wrinkles of her dark skin pulled and fell as she spoke each night, the fire light crafting her face into a mask of somewhat grotesque comfort. Comfort only in that she was the very last of her age to survive, and I hadn’t seen another human for some time.

“What of the wars,” I had asked. “Did you lose many?”

Her voice dropped in soft innocence. “Oh, those were some years back. I recall a husband and two sons, then a daughter stolen to the ravage, but it’s been so long.” She paused briefly to drink bark tea, and her face pulled sharp at its bitterness. “It’s been so long I can’t count those memories true. A story from a traveler such as yourself perhaps.”

Her ignorance of the outside world touched me then, and I wondered if she knew that no other soul would see as many days as she had seen. The dark creases of her face were the last to touch this world.

I struggled through a lumped throat to continue. “The, um, pictures in the hall show a family of five,” I had said. “That seems to fit with your memory.”

Her forehead pinched in pain or confusion. It was difficult to tell which. “Yes, but… I had a maw and paw once, too. Only, I can’t see them in my head anymore, or any siblings of recollection.” She dropped her head back and rocked away the struggle.

It was a Monday when I buried her, and though her passing tragic, I envied it.

The war on the soul came in too many forms to count. Of the victims, the elderly and youth suffered greatest in the battles. Ravaged by disinterest and contempt, the beasts of this world crafted the young into robotic soldiers, and then ate them whole; while simultaneously sucking the dignity of those who might lead with greater wisdom. They separated the hearts of men from everything of substance, fashioning them into the next generation of beasts for the feeding.

For my part, I bear the scars of too many long days, sharp teeth, and ferrying hope to those who could never grasp it.

I threw the apple core and watched it disappear into the fog. My decision grew closer with its encroachment, but not enough to choose a path. The weight of an entire race lay heavy and the memories I’d gathered too dark to reason anything positive. On one shoulder an angel wept with tears of pity and prayers of hope; on the other a devil snickered with taunts of continued destruction and torment. Both desired humanities return for entirely different purposes, but neither swayed in their argument.

In the fog, the voice of a man I’d once met called out. His suburban home had been neat, trimmed grass and kept cars. Two children rolled in the backyard, giggling and tossing leaves at one another. They eventually collapsed in a pile and watched the clouds, each calling out shapes as they floated by us. In the kitchen their mother hummed as she prepared dinner before leaving to work the night shift at a local factory, and their father sat next to me, packing an old wooden pipe with sweet tobacco.

“You see,” he had said, dragging in a puff. “It’s not easy, but we make it work. The kids get us both, and we try hard to spend quality time with them. Family trips and such.”

“Wouldn’t it aid them to have one of you home,” I had asked.

He took a swig of his fourth beer. “Of course, of course, but I was a latchkey kid raised by a single mom. She worked three jobs to make sure we had everything. That’s when I learned the importance of a good work ethic and quality time. We didn’t see her much, but she made those times count.” His eyes dropped, and the remainder of the conversation lost itself to furrowed memories.

Several years later, he died after a second heart attack, passing his ideals of a strong work ethic and quality time to the teenage children standing graveside.

And still, I envied his passing.

The war on families had been the most pervasive, a final deathblow being a core of common problems everyone faced, but none strong enough to break its cycle. Thinning wages and longer hours plated children up to the system’s wicked hand. Media and law enforced instruction raised them to be separate yet unequal, growing discord to such staccatos that parents were left shaken and unsure—self-doubt stalking as their own personal beasts.

By far, this war had taken more souls than any bullet could hope to gather. Each battle that had been raged against any form of comfort and love hit its mark with fatal accuracy, and separation was its primary goal. The vile roamed free to destroy innocence with silent abuse while the innocent pandered to institutions in an effort to avoid being caged. Sadly, they lived this lie for lifetimes behind invisible bars, waiting for the loneliest deaths on crisp linen beds.

The man who had traveled this path with me some ways back stumbled out of the fog as I sat lost in my struggles. He paused briefly, then staggered sideways, unable to keep his footing. A glint of red dripped from his nose from the effort of each movement and fell down to puddle between stones. Bones creaked and joints twisted in the way a marionette might stand with its strings slacked, and for a moment I thought he might join me by the path side, but neither of us moved.

“Not done,” he exhaled a pained whisper.

“With what,” I asked, digging my boot into the soil.

“Living.” Without hesitation, he lurched forward to follow one of the two forks ahead.

I watched in silent awe at the determination and spirit trailing him. For all the miles, all the pain, all the war and destitute, this one remaining soul pushed on to something no longer in my sight, and I envied the hope in his steps.

“To the right then,” I whispered to an unresponsive sky, and the fog enveloped us both.

Categories: Drive by life | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Short Story – Where Fate Left Off

Something a different this week. Here’s a short treat from the archives to bring a little paranormal into your Tuesday evening. 🙂

 

Where Fate Left off

by

Ranee Dillon

Imitation china clanked in the busy dining car, every booth packed three deep except for one. I strolled up to a mousy blonde woman in lace and looked down at the empty bench across from her. She straightened, a slight curve catching her lips, then nodded. Not the eager kind of hungry seductive bob I’d gotten from most women. This was a reserved sway, graceful and elegant as if I were one of her subjects and she the princess.

“Something to drink,” an over-greased waiter asked.

“Scotch with a splash of water,” I said. “And, of course, anything the lady wants.”

The blonde dismissed the waiter with a sharp glance, and he scurried through the crowd.

I fiddled with the plated silverware. “It’s busy in here tonight. I’m Tom, by the way.”

Deep valleys creased her paper-mache skin, but fit the pin curls framing her face. A single strand of pale yellow hair had escaped her neat French twist. It dangled against the spotted flesh of her neck, begging for my hand to tuck it into place. Or perhaps my hand begged to tidy it. Her eyes darted down to my fiddling fingers in a knowing way—a far too intuitive gesture for my comfort level.

I leaned back, tapping the table as the waiter returned with my drink.

“Anything else?”

“I’ll need another one of these soon,” I said.

“Motion to me if you need another one, and I’ll have it out to you directly.” He darted off to another table before I could respond.

“Cagy guy,” I said and took a long sip of my scotch. A cutting pain ripped through my arm, and the glass slid through my hand onto the table. “Crap, it’s been doing that all day. I can’t grip a damn thing. Thank God it landed the right way. That could have been a mess.”

Blondie’s head swayed again, her aged frame trembling, and she reached over to claim my drink. Her spindled fingers ended in smooth white tips, matching the colorless skin beneath. A large diamond set in a Celtic woven band winked at me. It projected a rainbow of colors across the table and onto my tie, making me aware of the small red stains on it.

“Shit,” I said, wiping at them. “I thought scotch was a golden brown. How the hell did it turn red? Lousy dry cleaners must have put some chemical on it. I’ll have to talk to them about that.”

A shrill laugh distracted me from the tie disaster. Some brunette in a too-tight velvet dress hung on a man in the booth across from us. Her red lipstick smeared down his cheek, which didn’t seem to agree with him because he scrubbed it with a napkin. It bled into the crisp white surface, a scene worthy of chalked lines. He dipped the linen in a crevasse of water and used the knife as a mirror, but the stain grew across his cheek. The car jerked, knocking them into a window, and the velvet temptress shriek in response.

Glasses on the faux wood tabletop clinked in mocking tones. The sound enveloped the car, but no one budged, except me. I covered my ears, cursing at them and the screeching train wheels. My ears bled, my arms ached, and still the noise split through me. Louder and louder, it whipped around the car, lashing out at me and the other diners.

“Stop,” I screamed.

Silence followed. As I glanced around, the other passengers sat quietly in their booths eating dinner. No one looked back, not even a shifty-eyed scan. The mousy blonde, busy digging through a small wooden box, ignored me, too. Not a cup or fork lay out of place, and even the scotch in front of me sat undisturbed, an inviting retreat from indifferent company. I guzzled it down to numb the anxiety and regain my sanity.

“I should have taken one of those fancy new airplanes,” I said, mainly to myself. “They say it only takes hours to get from one coast to another instead of weeks. Sure the hell beats dealing with this crap.”

The waiter dropped another drink on the table, then disappeared.

“He isn’t very conversational, is he?” I asked.

Blondie smirked and pulled out some stationary from the box. In curved elegant script, she began writing to a man named Thomas. Tears dotted the soft pink paper, creating small pools of blackish-rose. They soaked in, smeared by an occasional brush of her finger, but she didn’t stop or start over. She reached the end with a large scribbled heart.

I smiled. “My fiancé, Sarah, ends her letters to me the same way.”

She nodded and folded the note, tucking it beneath the salt shaker.

“She had a ring like that too,” I said. “We bought it at Macy’s after their tenth anniversary parade. Most popular engagement ring they had, the clerk said. I still remember the way she grabbed me after I proposed. Hundreds of people, and it was just the two of us standing out there by the street. I’m traveling to meet her now. Where are you heading?”

No answer, only a small river flowing down her pale cheeks.

Ice swirled in a golden pool, and she reached over, then gulped the scotch in one run. Her hand shook until the glass dropped down and rolled across the table. It fell onto my bench and clunked to the floor. I reached under to grab it, but my shoulder wedged between the lip and cushioned seat. After a few swipes, I yanked it and myself up, straightening my jacket and tie.

Blondie had disappeared.

I scanned the bustling crowd to find her. Several booths down, near the rear, she stood at the back door with her hand hovering above the latch. Her petite frame trembled, her legs shook, but the square resolve of aged shoulders seemed to drag her forward. One final deep breathe, and she opened the dining car door to a scene of tracks and a rocky abyss.

She glanced back, then lunged over the railing.

Red and lace rolled against the steel below, and I raced out behind her, screaming into—the caboose? Musty air assaulted me, the distinct scent of a room vacant for decades. I ripped up the shades and pulled open the rear car door, only to find lush rolling hills rushing past. No rocky mountainside, no lace, no Blondie; just the clickity-clack of a train speeding through a beautiful fall day.

“What the heck is going on?” I asked, stumbling back into the dining car and planting myself in the booth.

Laughter and chatter filled around me. My stomach twisted in on itself, and I stared blankly at the empty seat on the other side. Minutes dripped into an hour before I could even move, then I saw it—the note. It was tucked beneath the salt shaker. I pulled it out and opened it slowly.

Thomas,

Fifty years ago on this day your train fell victim to a rockslide, killing you and so many others, my Love. We were to wed later in the week, but fate had other ideas it seems. Though I’ve lived a full life, part of me remained stuck in a reality where you and I still live happily together. I leave to join you there with the hope that you’re waiting.

Sarah

I collapsed against the seat, shellshock creeping across my chest. The pounding in my head deafened all other sounds, and I rocked back and forth, trying to grip my sandglass reality. My Sarah, was it really her? That old woman with creased paper skin and faded sunflower hair. The train crashed, she wrote about a rockslide, but it couldn’t be true. Here I sat, drinking my scotch in car full of—

No one, it was empty, save a lone waiter bursting through the door with a furrowed brow. He glanced at the booth and the open rear door with wide eyes, then rushed back the way he came without a word. Raised voices floated from his direction as a conductor and several other people hurried to the rear. They argued and yelled while the train screeched to a halt, and I watched in disbelief as they hoisted what remained of the old woman onto the platform.

“May I sit here,” a soft voice asked. “It’s busy tonight.”

She didn’t wait for an answer, instead sliding gracefully down on the bench across from me. Soft blonde pincurls swayed with the chiffon of her summer dress, a single strand loosed from her neat french twist tempted me to tuck it back.

“S—Sarah?” I squeezed my eyes shut, then opened them wide.

“I couldn’t wait any longer,” she said, sliding a ring over to me. “Now, we can pick up where fate left off.”

 

Categories: short stories | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

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