Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Modern Romance

She nuzzles close, curled up in his warm embrace;
"I think I'm in love with you," she whispers breathlessly.
He kisses her temple softly and replies:
"Don't worry, that will pass."

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


Grey-blue eyes, locked onto his;
He matches the gaze, smiling subtly.
A low quick blur.
Wet burning agony;
The blade sinks in, cutting deeply.

Out of focus grey-blue;
Unwavering, unblinking.
Moving closer, her lips brush past his neck;
Twisting the blade, her cheek to his, she whispers softly;
The words sink in, cutting more deeply.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

One Small Moment

The tip of my tongue touched her neck and delicately trailed up towards the hidden place behind her ear. It had a slightly salty, tangy taste that only served to make me want to drink her in more deeply. She tilted her head millimeters, barely moving yet opening wide a landscape of understanding between us. This was acceptable, this was what she wanted. I closed my eyes, exhaling my hot breath onto her skin. My amygdala took control.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The Real Waterworld

Once upon a time, a large comet hit the water planet of XRGEE Alpha. The resulting shockwave sent many megatons of water into orbit around the planet and drifting off into the greater vacuum beyond the pull of the planet's gravity. Caught up in this unreasonably wet catastrophe was Bleegrx, a Tri-Crowned Flampjacker. Tri-Crowned Flampjackers look like what you might get if you combined a sperm whale with an octopus the size of a small IRS office building, gave it three heads, looked at the result and decided to throw the whole mess out and start over from scratch.

Bleegrx was understandably confused. One minute Bleegrx had been chasing a school of small cephalopods and the next minute he was suspended miles above the vast ocean watching the big blue planet stubbornly refuse to adjust its proximity to him. All of a sudden a great glob of water splashed into him, scattering from the impact and going into complex little decaying orbits around him. He reached out and gathered the globules and droplets back toward him as they magnified and distorted the pattern of stars that was all around him, each a tiny imperfect lens. He carefully pulled the pieces of water together until he had a small wiggly globe. More assaults by rogue chunks of water, and eventually Bleegrx was swimming again; this time in a sphere of water, a new moon to XRGEE Alpha that grew larger with each mass of water that splashed into its surface sending waves in complex undulating patterns through the globe and across its surface.

As Bleegrx swam around checking out his new environment, he could see all of XGREE Alpha on one side and all sorts of stars and gas clouds on the other, all of it distorted by the water all around him. "That was unexpected," he said to himself.

I am Sam Bentwood and had practically nothing to do with that comet.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Girl At Terminal 63

She has cowboy boots on. That’s the first thing I notice about her; that and the fact that the boots don’t really go with everything else that she’s wearing. But yet, they sort of do. She has on a peach pink dress which stops just short of the top of the cowboy boots when she’s seated, which is how she is when I first see her. The dress is covered sparingly with an open pattern of tiny little flowers. White opalescent buttons the size of dimes run down the middle of the front of her dress stopping at a braided cloth belt with leather on its ends where it buckles. It’s not a belt, in the true sense, but part of the dress. The large airport window behind her reveals a silhouette of the shape of her legs when she shifts positions to refold herself into a new posture.

She is pretty, in a plain way. Her shoulder-length light brown hair looks well taken care of but it’s cut simply, devoid of layering or other fancy salon trickery, and frames her face in an unpresuming way. I imagine her as the daughter of a rancher in Oklahoma, a living breathing piece of modern Americana. I can practically see her kicking up dust with her worn cowboy boots as she walks across some ambiguous dry prairie, the wind tugging at the hem of her thin dress.

She twirls strands of her hair between her fingers with one hand and she holds a cell phone, almost invisible beneath the hair that has fallen over it, to her ear with the other, speaking a few words occasionally but mostly listening. Her arms are pulled in tight to her body and she leans forward, as though she is trying to find the optimal position in which to fold her thin body in on itself. I wonder what her relationship to the voice in the phone is.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Little Jonah

Jonah wasn’t stupid. He had a pretty good idea why he was the way he was. It probably had something to do with the endless queue of abusive men that his mother had yanked into his life as he grew up. Yea ‘his’ life. There was no ‘their’ life as far as Jonah was concerned. She was his mother because everyone has to have a mother, but that was very clearly where she felt her maternal duties stopped. If he complained that Jack, or Jon, or Steve, or Mike, or whoever the latest guy was had done something to him, she didn’t care. Whether she believed him or not didn’t really matter to her, she would lock little Jonah in the closet for a few hours seemingly just because he spoke to her. He stopped complaining, stopped talking altogether eventually. It didn’t matter. There was always a reason to hammer on little Jonah a bit and throw him in the closet if he bled a little too much or if she heard the bed warmer of the month’s car pulling up.

He wasn’t stupid. He’d learned to hate his mother exactly as he believed she wanted him to. It wasn’t that hard really. And right around the time that his voice would have been cracking, if he had ever used it, he came to an unspoken (unspoken: funny, right?) agreement with his mother. The less she saw of him, the less he saw of the inside of some closet, cupboard or cellar. He came to suspect that this was probably better for his mother’s health, not that he truly cared. He was big enough by age thirteen that her, and whoever else’s, vicious beatings only happened if he chose not to fight back. He rarely fought back, but he wasn’t stupid and tried to avoid having to make that decision as much as possible. He’d be gone for days, sometimes only coming back to steal food and a change of clothes.

On the night of his fifteenth birthday he came home to a dark house, everyone asleep for the night. He threw the two cats he’d killed and what remained of the large dog that he had found smeared across the road, a lucky find for sure, into the oven and headed for the bedroom.

When he opened the door to the bedroom he was greeted by the smell of cheap bourbon and something else. It was like a swimming pool full of alcoholics. He didn’t think it would make a difference but he carefully tied his mother’s hands together through the cheap wooden posts of the headboard using part of the electrical cord that he had cut from the living room lamp with the paring knife he had found on the kitchen counter. She didn’t even stir while he did this, so he made sure it was really tight. The feet were harder to get a good solid bind on, but he eventually got them attached to the foot of the bed.

Around on the other side of the bed he stared at the man laying there, partly covered by a sweat stained sheet. The paring knife’s blade was short but sharp. He missed the man’s eye on the first down stroke, instead laying open the cheek all the way to the bone. Some blood but not much. The man was screaming and trying to sit up when the knife hit home the second time. Jonah had stopped him from getting up simply by holding the man’s shoulder down. Clearly he was very drunk. Jonah slammed the meat of his palm into the butt of the knife, driving it down through the man’s eye and further into his head. The man twitched, gurgled and went still. Jonah wasn’t sure but he thought the guy has shit himself as well. He smiled at that thought. Digging his fingers into the eye socket of the last of his mother’s lovers, he got a couple fingers around the slippery handle of the knife and pulled it free. Much more blood now; a tiny well of it in this man’s face. With all of his strength, he rolled and slid the man until he was partially laying on Jonah’s mother, then sawed the small blade back and forth through the cords of the man’s neck until his shoulder burned with the exertion of it. A lot of blood had soaked his mother, the bed, and was dripping onto the floor. Jonah stabbed the man four or five times in the back for good measure and jumped off of the bed. When he left the room his mother was just starting to stir, still nowhere near conscious.

After trying to wash most of the blood off of his arms and neck, he set the oven for 600 degrees, threw the knife inside on top of one of the cats and slammed the door closed. Turning one of the burners on, he blew out the little blue flame and then turned the burner all the way up. It hissed at him.

He never came back, never checked to see what happened to his mother, didn’t really care. Most people he met seemed to look like her or one of her ‘men’, so his method got more efficient, more skilled, but no less messy. The blood was the money shot.

He knew what he was, and didn’t mind so much.

Monday, March 3, 2008


Not part of Laura's Story:

She is on top of me, straddling me as I look up into her face; a perfect face framed by her dark wavy hair. She supports herself with her arms as she leans over me, strands of hair coming loose from behind her ears and falling to brush against my face. We sit like this, motionless, for an hour, maybe longer, looking into one another. Her face shows no emotion, yet behind the windows of her eyes, all I see is her, and love. In this moment there is no difference between the two. She sees the same within my eyes. I know this because I see her truly. There are no walls now, no double meanings.

My vision blurs and thick tears trace down the side of my face as I blink. Her face softens just slightly, “What’s wrong?”

I reach up and brush some loose strands of her hair back behind her ear. My hands linger and I hold her head delicately between them, a simple reassurance that she’s here, she’s mine. “Nothing,” I say, seeing myself from behind her eyes, “How did I get so lucky? …to end up with you.”

She smiles, a simple small smile, the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. I blink quickly to clear the tears that have regrouped and now threaten to obstruct the connection of her and me. “Are you kidding?” she says softly, “You’re perfect.”

My hand trembles as a tear falls from her smiling face to mine. We continue to inhabit the other’s soul, lost together in an abyss of perfect oblivion.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Heroines Meet

A stronger gust hit the tree taking Janey by surprise and causing her to lose her footing. She squealed when her foot slipped from the branch and at the last second she pulled herself into a bear hug death grip to the trunk of the tree. Her fall had not completely halted by the time she was cheek to bark with the tree, and she paid the price for it with an unpleasant scrape across the side of her face. When she regained enough of her confidence that she wasn’t going to fall she relaxed her grip on the tree and pulled her face away from the tree. It stung mightily. Tenderly touching her temple, the tips of her small fingers came away with blood and tiny bits of bark clinging to them. At the sight of the blood and the realization that she had hurt herself, tears pooled up in her eyes and overflowed in a single quick gush. She tried to dry her eyes with the back of her arm and then began the process of climbing back down out of the tree; never as easy as getting into the tree, it seemed. She was very aware of the stinging side of her face as she worked to free herself from the tree and paid careful attention not to let anything else touch it.

Back inside, she made straight for the bathroom. In the mirror it didn’t look nearly as bad as it felt. After she had washed it clean with soap and water, wincing the whole way, it was little more that a small pink abrasion above her cheekbone. She decided to not even tell Mommy about it, unless she specifically asked.

As she passed the closed door of Mommy and Lee’s room on her way back outside, she heard Lee. He was talking in the same way that he would sometime talk to Janey when it was just the two of them. The way she hated. She shuddered and ran back through the house and out the back door, her boo-boo all but forgotten.

She found a fallen branch that was slightly taller than she was and started using it alternatively like a broadsword and walking stick as she made her way to the road. She was going for a walk and was pretty sure her absence wouldn’t be noticed since Mommy and Lee would usually stay in their room for a few hours when the door was all the way closed like she had just seen it. She strolled along the road, figuring she would drop in on Laura and Mark. Maybe even get some sympathy cookies or something like that if she milked her new injury just right. The building wind was making a mess of her hair, but she barely noticed; too caught up in whatever adventure only her eyes could see as she meandered along. She failed to even notice the darkening thunderheads that she was walking towards.

Laura pulled her head out from under the water. The headache was still very much there, but the cold shock of the water had helped bring her alertness back to her. She had also managed to get some of the blood out of her ear, eye and nostrils, so that was an improvement as well. She pulled back her soaked hair with both hands, gingerly avoiding the large knot on the back of her head. Cold water flowed under the collar of her shirt and straight down her back. The water felt good. It gave her an idea.

Standing in the down pouring rain with her eyes closed and her face turned skywards, Laura had temporarily forgotten that the person who had dragged Mark away could, and probably would, be coming back soon. She let the rain soak her and she listened to its sound and focused on the rhythm it made as it hit her face, neck and shoulders. The thunder was still there but what she seemed to hear the most was the rain as it hit her and everything around her.

She finally opened her eyes and wiped the extra water from her face. She turned to go inside, already planning her route through the house, dreading the prospect of having to face all that blood again. She would check to see if the phone in the bedroom was still working, then she would grab the keys off of the writer’s desk and drive the Rover straight to the sheriff’s station. But when she turned back towards the house, she wasn’t prepared to have someone standing quietly on the back porch watching her. The shock of it was too much for her in her current state. As the world turned into a dark tunnel and upended itself, the last thing she saw before she blacked out was the person running towards her as she lay limply in her own back yard.

For the second time today, Laura slowly opened her eyes and found herself again lying on the ground and, again, not alone. She stared up into very worried little hazel eyes, framed by stringy wet tendrils of hair that hung towards Laura’s face.

“Laura! Are you okay? You just… fell down,” Janey pleaded, trying to make sense of what she has just watched, “It looked like you were praying or something when I got here so I just waited quietly on your porch for you to finish. …and then you just turned around and fell over.”

Laura reached up and gently touched Janey’s face, not believing until she touched her wet hair that she was real and not some hallucination brought on by the far too traumatic events that had so far made up her day. “Janey, sweetie, what are you doing here?”

The thunder rolled again, but where it left off a different kind of rumble continued along with the crisper crunch of gravel. Laura sat up FAST grabbing Janey and appearing to stare straight through the house. Janey saw Laura’s mask of absolute terror and immediately became frightened as well, even though she had no idea why they were both suddenly so scared. Laura’s eye’s welled up with tears that mixed unnoticed with the rain that continued to hit her face. He was back.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Sink

It had been a long time since she’d heard the stranger’s pickup start up with a wheezing rumble. Laura had heard the tires struggle for traction on the gravel driveway followed by the rapid clacking of several small pebbles sent hurdling against the house by the spinning tires. Now it was quiet. The spot of sunlight on the floor was now just a fuzzy shape, much grayer and less brilliant than when she had first noticed it on the table.

She shifted her weight and rolled over onto her back, barely thinking anymore about the mess that still surrounded her and was now soaking into previously clean areas of her blouse and jeans. She flinched as her damaged head banged too quickly on the hard floor, her vision blurring for a second from the pain. When it had passed she was looking up at the flower pattern plastered into the ceiling. Even this minor change in scenery was a relief after hours, it seemed like hours anyway, of lying motionless, forced to look in only one direction. The left side of her body was slowing waking up; the pins and needles were right on cue. She flexed her fingers spasmodically, not yet in full control of them.

After five minutes, that seemed to stretch on for hours, of mentally preparing herself she sat up with one quick and ragged movement. She planted her hands on the floor behind her to keep from falling back over. The room was spinning and she was about to be sick. She closed her eyes and concentrated on staying in control, determined not to pass out and have to start all over. Slowly the nausea subsided and she opened her eyes.

The phone was still on the wall. The cord that had connected the phone to the wall plug had been neatly clipped. Well that would be too easy, Laura, she thought as she looked around the kitchen, her gaze snagged and held captive momentarily by the shards of glass under the table and the shattered hutch just beyond. The scene she was sitting in the middle of didn’t look any better now, but all least she could see all of it without fear of who was watching her.

She crawled over to where the sink was, leaving smeared handprints on the floor. Reaching up and grabbing the edge of the counter where the sink was she began pulling herself up towards the sink, trying to get her feet under her and slipping several times before finally standing up. She was trembling weakly and could feel her legs about to give out and the pit of her stomach rolling hard. She looked up from the sink and out of the little picture window, searching for any movement in the driveway or the strange truck that she had seen the last time she had stood here. At that thought, she whipped her head around, positive that someone was behind her. But all that she was rewarded with was a fresh bout of nausea and blurred vision and another unsettling view of where she had been laying minutes before.

She turned back around, her fingers white, gripping the edge of the sink, and retched. Unlike when she normally threw up, usually after too much drinking and dancing, this did not make her feel better, at all. Without looking back up, for fear of getting sick again, she fumbled with her hand until she found the lever and turned on the faucet. As she washed and scrubbed at her bloody hands she slowly looked back out of the window, not sure what she would do next and not caring. Each little thing she did seemed to take all of her energy and concentration. Planning beyond the task of getting some of the blood off of her hands and face was simply too much.

A few fat rain drops hit the window and raced down, leaving trails of smaller drops above them. Laura watched the drops slide down the window, her scrubbing slowing almost to a stop. A second later the window was a blur of water, all solitary trails of droplets gone. She looked back down at her hands, now covered in pink suds, and started rubbing them together again. The rain beat a fast rhythm against the glass underscored by a steady rumble of thunder like the growling of some great chthonic beast. Laura closed her eyes, braced for the dizziness and nausea, and put her head under the flowing water.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Chapter 2: Janey (Part 2)

Her clothes were on her bed, as her mother had promised. She changed quickly, leaving her dirty sundress a crumpled pile on the floor next to her bed. After pulling her shirt on, she looked down at her dress, lying next to the space between the bottom of her bed frame and the floor, thinking about the empty darkness that filled that little area.

Taking a running leap to land in the pile of blankets and plush animals waiting to envelope her was her preferred method of getting in bed each night. Standing with her bare ankles and shins exposed to that emptiness always seemed to overpower her rational senses. Her imagination was strong and would work against her whenever she stood next to her bed and would happen to notice the darkness underneath.

Her heart fluttered and sped up as she snatched the dress up off of the no man’s land around her bed. She flung the dress into the corner of the room, onto a pile of used paint-with-water coloring books as she bolted from the room, too afraid to look back at her bed for any sign that something might have just missed grabbing the dress.

By the time she had made it down the hall and back into the kitchen she had forgotten about the mysterious space that lingered beneath her each night as she dreamed. Mommy had already started making lunch, and was peeling potatoes over the sink. Janey grabbed a slice of potato skin out of the sink and popped it into her mouth as she made for the back door.

“Stay on the porch, sweetie,” called her mother, “I don’t need you running off somewhere or getting all dirty again right before lunch.”

Janey walked to the edge of the cement platform that they called the back porch, and sat down with her legs dangling over the edge. She traced a ‘J’ on the bare cement of the porch; kicking her legs idly. The breeze had gotten a bit stronger and more regular since she had been inside the house but it was still a wonderfully bright and beautiful afternoon. She noticed a glare in the grass where she had been playing. The tiny windshield of the abandoned jeep was reflecting the sun into her eyes. She started making a mental list of all the fun things she would try to do after lunch.

Lunch was mashed potatoes and meatloaf. Janey ate quickly and even had seconds on the potatoes, but was disappointed when she learned that the cinnamon rolls were meant for some other time. Her mother and Lee were talking about some movie they were interested seeing. Janey had a hard time understanding the appeal of a movie where the only thing that ever seemed to happen was talking. Where was the fun and adventure in that?

“Mommy, can I be excused,” Janey blurted, ignoring the fact that she had just interrupted something Lee had been saying, “I’m done eating. Can I go outside and play?”

“Sure Janey, just stay where you can hear me ok?” her mother replied as she stood to clear the dishes from Janey’s place at the table.

Returning to the site of the Siege of Mr. Fluffy Bottom, Janey gathered up the toys; pulling the bottom of the front of her shirt out to make a primitive basket that could hold more toys than her arms alone could. Returning to the back door, she stepped inside and let go of the bottom of her shirt, dumping the toys carelessly inside the house and leaving again before her mother could see what she’d done and tell her to put her toys away properly.

She wandered around the yard, stopping to pick dandelions here, or watch a trail of ants somewhere else. She quickly lost track of time, caught up in her own thoughts, and eventually found a tree to climb. The tree wasn’t technically in the yard, but she was confident that she could hear if called.

She stood in the tree and tried to make herself invisible to the environment around her. Standing on a branch and holding onto the trunk of the tree, she could see a horizon much further away than any she had seen before. She smiled as the wind rustled the leaves all around her and blew her hair gently back from her face. The wind was getting stronger, the tree swaying with her in it. The leaves rattling against each other made a sound that reminded her of the loud static sound of a TV without a signal. Beneath that she could hear the slow deep rumble of thunder in the distance.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Chapter 2: Janey

The jeep flew over the mound of dirt, bouncing a bit as it came back in contact with the earth. It muscled its way through the pond and up the bank on the other side, its engine roaring loudly the whole time. The way through the jungle it had just entered was treacherous and much swerving and dodging ensued before it suddenly skidded to a stop. Towering far above the jeep was a colossal beast, a bear, raring up on its hindquarters ready to deliver a mighty shuddering swipe with its great paw that could easily send the entire jeep tumbling and careening out of control through the jungle. The jeep slowly started backing away from the huge creature. The bear roared, preparing to attack.

“Fire!” bellowed sergeant Kilroy to his team of troops, “Give it everything we’ve got, NOW!” He shouldered his rifle and began firing on the bear, trying to focus the majority of the shots on the bear’s snout and eyes. “Bubba! Use the bazooka! That’s what we have it for!”

Bubba propped the bazooka on his shoulder, kneeled down and switched it on. Sergeant was yelling something at him but he couldn’t hear above all the gunfire of the other soldiers. He shrugged, lined his eyes up with the sight and pulled the trigger. After a short pause of nothing happening he was rewarded with a hot blast of smoke in his face, making his eyes sting and tear up. The rocket seemed to fly in slow motion as it made its way toward the massive bellowing beast. It made contact right in the center of the bear’s chest, leaving a huge smoking scorch mark on the bear’s plaid overalls.

Mr. Fluffy Bottom stopped roaring and looked down at his smoking chest—

“Janey! I told you to change out of your dress before playing outside in the dirt like that! Don’t you ever listen to what I say, young lady?”

Still holding her teddy bear and a green plastic soldier in frozen combat poses, Janey looked up to see her mother standing in the back door. She was smiling at Janey with her hands propped on her hips and holding the back door open with her shoulder. A small cloud of dust was drifting from where Janey sat, back towards the house, occasionally defining the shape of a sunray before moving on. Janey jumped up and began running towards her mother; dirty knees, dusty dress and all. She’d have to figure out how to stir up a lot more dust sometime soon. The sunbeams were pretty and warranted more attention. But not right now.

As Janey approached her mother at a child’s sprint, she spread her arms open wide. Mother and daughter came together in a gentle collision as her mother bent down and scooped her off the ground at the just right instant. Janey hugged her mother with abandon, her dusty muddy melodrama motionless and forgotten in the yard.

“Little Miss Janey,” her mother said as she hugged back, “you are filthy and I’m afraid that now so am I.” She hugged her daughter for a few more seconds and with a little extra squeeze at the end she set her back down on the back stoop. “Get inside and get that dress off and put some shorts on. I left your pink shorts and your Dora shirt on your bed for you to change into.”

Janey loved her mother but she was mostly happy that her mother was home for the same reason that she had been playing in the back yard in the first place. Lee was Mommy’s boyfriend and Janey had learned that the best place to be when Mommy was at work was away from Lee. He was creepy.

On boring afternoons she used to sit on the sofa and watch cartoons or some kids show that she felt too smart for. Some days, he would come over and sit down right next to her; so stiflingly close that the cushions would sink under his weight, tipping her little body awkwardly towards him. He would tell her that she was pretty, that she looked a lot like her mother, that her features were so delicate, her eyes beautiful. After two years she’d heard pretty much his whole repertoire, delivered in a low syrupy voice. She stopped hearing what he actually said, focusing instead on how stupid she was for letting herself get caught alone with him yet again. She didn’t watch much TV these days.

She was six now and still didn’t really understand why he acted the way that he did when Mommy wasn’t home. What she did understand was that it happened less if she could stay out of sight when he was the only one around. Lee disturbed her and she had developed a special kind of loathing for him. She would joyfully assign his name to the victim of the worst casualty in her intensely brutal little toy skirmishes.

But none of that mattered right now, because Mommy was home, which meant that Lee probably wouldn’t even look at or speak to her for most of the rest of the afternoon and evening. At this realization, she took off through the house to change into her pink shorts and favorite shirt. As she passed the kitchen table, she glimpsed a tube of cinnamon rolls in the bag of groceries that still sat there.

She loved those cinnamon rolls, and the way they smelled when they were baking. Sometimes Laura and Mark would make the exact same cinnamon rolls and then the three of them would eat the whole pan of rolls, straight out of the oven. Mark and Laura were cool.

Visiting Laura and Mark was another strategy she had of avoiding Lee. That and they were just fun to be around. They weren’t like most grown-ups; they didn’t make her feel like a little kid when she was with them. She was just one of the gang. Of course, Mommy didn’t know about her regular half-mile walks to visit them, and probably wouldn’t allow it if she had known. But there were a lot of things, anymore, that Mommy didn’t know about.

She resumed racing towards her bedroom, practically outrunning her breath and not even caring. She looked just like any six-year-old would when running through the house at just over the threshold of safety; a happy little ball of clumsy frenetic energy.

Monday, January 28, 2008

The Tower

My apologies for not having another part of Laura's story up tonight. I will have a new part of it up Wednesday sometime. I promise. But since I didn't post more writing tonight, here is a new picture instead.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Laura's Awakening (Part 3)

She lifted her head slightly, blood-soaked tendrils of hair still clinging to the floor where they had incorporated themselves into the now gory mess of her once cozy little kitchen. She shut her eyes and listened. She could hear nothing with the ear that had been pressed onto the floor moments ago, save for the deep slow rhythm of her own heartbeat. Well, I’m alive. I guess that’s a good thing. Probably got blood in my ear, she thought, trying harder to focus on the mostly flat and empty landscape of sound around her. Through a steady ringing that seemed to come from inside the back of her head, she thought she could make out the sound of shifting boards. It sounded so far away though, maybe the front porch.

Gently, she lowered her head back down to its place on the floor and slowly opened her eyes, still listening. Everything sounded so far away, even her own thoughts. She wasn’t sure but it sounded like she had just heard the creak of the rusty old long hinge on the screen door.

The screen door slammed home, with the loud clack of wood on wood that she had come to recognize so well since she and Mark had moved in. There was always something else that had needed more attention than installing a pneumatic closer to prevented the loud “WAP!” every time someone didn’t take the time to close it softly.

Booming strides across the floor, (got no problem hearing them now) the whole floor seeming to shudder against her skull with each heavy footfall. Her heart rate doubling in a second, throbbing uncomfortably in her ear and deep inside her head. The atmosphere changed, and then there were no more thunderous footsteps. She couldn’t see him but she knew he was there, somewhere a yard or so beyond her feet, standing in the doorway gazing silently at her and Mark.

The floor shifted slightly and Mark moved behind her. No Mark! He’s right there don’t move now! She was panicking yet remained frozen, her body not giving her the option of doing anything. Fabric (denim?) brushed her left hand, her arm still laying behind her on the floor, and then pushed hard against her ramming her arm up against her body. It felt like Mark was lying next to her trying to roll over top of her. But there was that downward pull as well. Oh god, he’s dragging Mark away… she though a second before realizing that she was right. Her body slid sideways on the bloody lubricated floor; forced over by the pull of Mark’s body as he was being unceremoniously dragged away. More cloth pulled over her hand then something slick and warm seemed to slither over her arm and hand. Her mind reeled, refusing to admit that something that was supposed to be inside of Mark no longer was. Then she felt nothing again, except for the oily liquid that now completely covered her hand.

Something delicately touched her shoulder, trailing all the way down her arm, across the back of her hand and was gone. Mark’s hand, Laura thought in horror. The back of her hand burned with sensation as Laura focused on the last place on her body that he would ever touch. A heavy double thump rattled the floor yet again. A sickening, unclean sound as Mark’s head was pulled over the threshold and landed on the wood of the living room floor.

Laura was alone. She lay in a pool of her dead husband’s blood, as the sound of him being dragged away faded into the crescendo roar inside her head.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Laura's Awakening (Part 2)

Laura could see the shards of glass; some still part of the hutch door but now broken into long sweeping pieces, others lying on the floor under the table. The hutch had been part memento and part joke between her and Mark, bought because of an antique flea market they had stopped at on the way back from one of many road trips the two of them had taken years ago.

Five hours of relentless driving on I-40 across the flat boredom of northern Texas and then Oklahoma, and they had needed a break. The oppressive landscape had gradually driven away their good humor and replaced it with an agitated anxiety. Their conversation dwindled as the barrenness of the landscape around them had seeped into the SUV, a third presence that no one wanted to acknowledge or discuss.

“Ok, this sucks,” Mark injected into the stale silence, “We’re stopping at the next place where it looks like we won’t have to worry about meeting some distant relatives of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre family.” Less than a minute after he’d made the comment, they had passed a dusty gas station that looked like something still standing at the site of a nuclear test range. “See what I mean?” he said, still trying to add some levity to the atmosphere inside the Ranger Rover’s cabin. He turned his head, smiling, to look at Laura, trying to see if his joke had lightened her mood at all.

Without returning his gaze Laura pointed through the windshield, trying not to smile, “Look, a flea market,” she said, “That’ll work.”

There were a few other cars in the parking lot, if you could call it that. A big dusty field was a more accurate description for the lot next to the flea market, but that could have applied to pretty much everything else they’d seen for the last 50 miles. The building was an old airplane hangar that looked like a giant cylinder made of corrugated metal sheeting, tipped on its side and buried halfway in dust and dirt.

As they walked through the maze of booths and corridors filled with random Americana junk and odd lots of decommissioned military jumpsuits, boots and the occasional dented helmet, the tension between them had begun to dissolve.

“I bet the only people who ever come here, aside from people trying to sell this junk, are people like us who are a little bit insane from driving for hours in a straight line,” Mark whispered into Laura’s ear, kissing her gently behind her ear, pausing for a second before pulling back.

Laura smiled; a small orb of heat at the base of her stomach making its way throughout her body. The electric fuzziness of it was incredible. She spun on the balls of her feet, grabbed Mark’s head with both hands and pulled him into a deep kiss. Her body pressed full against him, she could feel him growing instantly harder as he leaned into her. For a second she pushed into him more, and then slowly pulled away from him, lingering long enough to exhale her hot breath onto his still open lips. “Maybe I really like looking at antiques,” she purred with a gleam in her eyes, “How do you know I’m not looking for the perfect hutch or something?”

Mark looked lost, his eyes slightly unfocused. Laura didn’t think he’d even heard what she had just said. “I love you,” he sighed, “Even if you have no idea what a hutch is.”

They had pulled off to the side of the road a few miles from the flea market and in the summer heat somewhere in the middle of Oklahoma they had made love twice. The first time, they devoured each other in hasty vigorous animal lust, leaving their skin, hair and the better part of the back seat drenched in perspiration. They had both gotten light-headed due to the frenetic intensity of their copulation and the building heat inside the Rover. After opening the doors and letting the arid and slightly less hot air wash over their bodies and soaked hair, cooling them quickly, the second time around was less rushed, more sensual, and just as sweaty.

Driving again, with the air conditioning providing a cool blast of arctic air, the silence in the Rover was now one of contentment. Glowing, Mark and Laura were both smiling. Mark ran his hand through his hair. “Goddamn, I love air conditioning,” he said matter-of-factly.

Weeks later Laura had come home after work to find the hutch, the one now broken by some maniac whose face she still hadn’t seen, sitting in the middle of their anteroom with a sign taped to it saying, “This is what a hutch is, smarty-pants.”

I love you too.

The present swam back into focus for Laura, the emotion of losing Mark replaced by numbness and a cold determination. She wasn’t sure where her attacker was or how long she’d laid here staring at the broken glass. She’d lost track of time again. She tried to focus, listening for some creak in the old house or anything really that would help her hone in on where the man was at, if he was still in the house at all.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Laura's Awakening

Laura lay motionless; the side of her face lay pressed against the cool linoleum, coated in partially congealed blood. Some of it was probably hers but most of it had belonged to her husband, also lying silent on the floor somewhere behind her. She wondered how close he was. Could she reach him if she tried? He couldn’t be far considering the pool of blood that had surrounded her, and presumably him as well. Because her ear was flat on the floor, the slightest movement of her head put odd pressure on her eardrum creating a loud squelching sound within her head that was most annoying and unpleasant. The corner of her left eye had not been spared the slow crimson flood and what little she was able to see with it was dark pink and out of focus. Rose colored lenses indeed… She marveled at her ability to find humor in even her current situation.

She wasn’t sure how long she’d laid here, but with her unhindered eye she could see that the misshapen rectangle of light cast by the afternoon sun through the small window above the sink had moved from the corner of the table, where the stranger still sat, across the kitchen floor and was now intersecting the reddish-brown puddle directly in front of her face. The entire time she had watched the slow tracking of the light across the floor, the person who had done this to her and her beloved had sat quietly at the small breakfast table facing the other direction.

The blood around her left arm was noticeably cooler and much stickier than when it has first touched and flowed languidly around her. She hadn’t moved as the iron stink had permeated her nostrils and the hot fluid (It had seemed so hot then) had spread out around her. There was so much of it… The pool had stopped expanding. Mark was dead or very close to it. Her chest hitched with the emotion of it. The disgusting squelching sound again as her head shifted slightly. The man sitting across the kitchen turned and Laura held her breath. Had he heard the suction of her ear on the floor too?

The grief and fear were at war within Laura. She wanted to cry, wail, and rage against this monster who had so casually and effortlessly taken Mark from her. But something deep inside told her not to move. Be still, let him think you’re dead too, or at least unconscious. A heavy tear overflowed and slowly worked its way across the length of her nose, hanging there at the tip before dropping into the sea of red below it. Her eye shifted back towards the table. Thank God, she thought. He had turned away before the tear had come. The path the tear had taken was now cooler and felt slightly stiff. She watched the figure sit at the table, slumping slighting in the chair. She couldn’t afford to cry. Not a luxury that I’m allowed right now, she thought. She blinked hard, flushing one more tear down the length of her nose, its volume expended and drying before it had a chance to gather and drip away. She had to come up with a plan. Laying here in a fear induced rigor wouldn’t do her or Mark any good.

At the thought of Mark her emotion and tears came clawing and rushing back up again. NO. Not now. She focused on the dull throb at the base of her skull and on how the drying blood and matted hair on the back of her head felt against her scalp. Every little movement pulled dozens of hairs that were now part of the solidifying mess back there, threatening to pull open the gash and cause a renewed bout of blood flow. Better.

Her headache had lessened from when she first awoke, or had at least decided to find its rightful place in the queue of ‘Things really wrong with Laura’s world.’ Either way, she only noticed the occasion deep throb now. Whatever she had been hit with had been very hard and very heavy. That’s all she could remember thinking in the fraction of a second between leaning over the kitchen sink to look at the unfamiliar car in the driveway and waking up in pain and a pool of blood. She had woken up instantly but hadn’t moved; opening her eyes slowly and only the tiniest bit, already somehow aware that something was deeply wrong. She still wasn’t sure how she’d managed that little bit of guile.

I need to think of a wa—

The harsh trill of the wall phone erupted, shattering the silence that the small kitchen had been awash in. Laura winced at the sound of the phone coming to life as a swift but enormous lightning storm flooded her mind, the pain driving away all thought. Explosive white flooded her vision before fading back to a dull yellow and finally the muted color of the kitchen floor and rectangle of sunlight again. Why was it so loud? The phone rang again, barely audible to her now; her headache back with a vengeance.

The sitting man pushed the table away with one thick arm, causing it to rasp across the floor noisily and smash into the small hutch sitting there. Glass tinkled to the floor under the table. He stood up and with a single stride, stepped out of Laura’s narrow field of vision. A second later the ringing stopped.