Saturday, March 12, 2016

Saturday Short Story: Sunlight and Sea Magic

I press my face to the glass of my prison; the humans don’t know my tears mingle with the salt in my tank, would probably never guess that I can cry. But I can. No matter how many times I hear freak, it always hurts.

Being in a circus, on display like an animal, consumes me. I watch little girls walk around on two legs, their smiles sweet and happy. I witness lovers kissing, their hands woven together. And the clothes; I envy the rainbow-colors of human cloth.

I can never walk. I’ve never been kissed. I don’t have clothes, except for a seashell net, which barely covers my breasts. My prison-tank is too small for me to swim, forcing me to float limply in the tepid water. Every single day is motionless torture.

But I have memories of a better time.

My family had treasured me, telling me often how beautiful I was, how special. How gifted. But I’d gotten caught in a tidal wave and had been swept away. Waking up on the shore had been terrifying. Air had cracked my skin and dried my lungs.

And then the circus found me.

They named me “Demon of the Deep” and ripped my dress, my lovely seaweed-silk dress, so they could wrap me in their scrap of embellished netting. They’d thrown me into my prison, the stagnate saltwater rejuvenating me only enough to keep my heart beating.

It’s been years since then, a horrible half-life. I am no longer a child of the sea, but a woman. Human men, lust brightening their eyes, seem to recognize this.

Only one man is different. He’d been a boy the first time I’d seen him, a small youth in metal cuffs working near my tank. I had screamed and yelled for my family for months after my imprisonment; most people would laugh or mock me, but the boy never did. He would watch with sad eyes. The humans were cruel to imprison me, but even more so to enslave one of their own children. Although I didn’t learn their language for several years, it took only days to learn that the boy was property, a creature not unlike myself. That bonded us, and now my man – for that’s how I think of him, after countless kind gestures on his part – has begun to sleep near my tank, his bruised body just another shadow in this strange land-world.

But tonight is different and he is not just a still shadow. He’s crawled to me, a single finger pressed to his lips. I nod fearfully; the other circus men would hurt him if they found him wandering around at night.

He climbs up my tank, surprising me with his agility, and offers me a hand. I peek above the water, questions in my eyes, but he remains silent. I lift one hand, afraid and excited, and let him grip my fingers.

His skin is soft and warm, like sunlight. I haven’t touched another creature in years, and his hand sends tingles down my arm. My eyes close in ecstasy. Imagining the rest of my body enveloped in soft warmth is easy, and shivers race through my blood.

Slowly, so that the water doesn’t splash, he pulls me from my tank. One strong arm bands around my waist, so close to my breasts that they ache, and then slides lower to cup the length of my tail. I moan and writhe in his arms while his breath caresses the shell of my ear, a sweet sea-breeze that has me arching towards him.

I feel him move, gently climbing down from my tank and then walking, but I don’t care where he goes. Every motion is bliss and heats me further. My pleasure must have been obvious, for he chuckles, his hands gripping and then smoothing out the delicate scales of my tail. His other hand inches up, almost touching the underside of my breast through the net. My nipples pearl and I moan louder.

He whispers in my ear, probably telling me to be quiet, but I’m lost. My skin is afire with sensation and I want more. I curl into him and let my face rest in the hollow of his throat. A human smell, unique and musky, fills my nose. I breathe him in and skim my lips over his pulse. He hisses, but not in an angry way.

I grin.

I want to taste his sunlight, so I flick my tongue over his pulse. His moan raises goose bumps on my skin and I wrap my arms tighter around his neck, pressing my now-tender breasts to his chest. My head falls back when my nipples meet the rough material of his shirt through my net, and his lips press down on my exposed throat, kissing and licking as I pant for air.

My skin starts to dry and panic fills the back of my mind, but I want a real kiss before I die. I want to experience the fiery heat of the sun in this brief freedom he’s gifted me with – a gift I would never have asked for. I know that that we will both meet death for this; his will come from stealing me, the other men lending far less mercy than the dry, burning air will give me.
I lift my head to gaze at him. His brown hair is tousled, curls flopping over his brows. His eyes, which have always been blacker than the deepest ocean depths, sparkle. I smile fondly, causing him to trip over something while blushing. My smile widens at the primal, feminine power I feel, and I brush my lips over his, reveling in the sensations. His sun-kissed skin scorches me with its heat, forcing me to gasp in the deadly air as pleasure fills my every pore. To touch…to feel his skin…

He groans. I feel him stop moving as I press forward again, merging my mouth to his. When he sweeps his tongue forward, surprising me, I open my mouth and I’m filled with a passion I’d never known existed.

Passion worth dying for.

As if he can hear my thoughts, he breaks the kiss. Some of the sparkle is gone from his eyes. He kneels with me still in his arms and his face gentles into a smile. He places a last kiss to my lips before lowering me into water.

I hadn’t heard the waves, or smelled the salt, but I gasp in joy and then whimper helplessly as my body sucks in the life-giving essence of the sea. My eyes squeeze close as energy builds within me, power I’d thought forever lost. Once again I’m lost in sensation, unable to control the moans and gasps falling from my lips

He’d brought me home.

I flutter open my eyelashes, needing to look at him. His face holds tenderness and love. I reach for him and he reaches back, weaving our hands together. I seal my eyes shut again and use the gift I’d been renowned for as a child. Sea-magic seeps from my body into his and he shudders before falling bonelessly into my arms.

I watch his body transform; his pants rip as his legs fuse and a beautiful green fin replaces his feet. When he stirs hesitantly in my arms and looks at me with wonder, I use his fingers to trace down his body, showing him the changes.

His beautiful eyes sparkle again.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Saturday Short Story: Last Bit of Luck

                              It all started with a cold.
                              Not a cold snap that makes people cover their prized petunias and drink cocoa in front of a fire, or a cold bitch who won frienemy-of-the-year award. No, those colds would never happen again—all because of a tissues-won’t-keep-the- snot-off-my-face cold.
                              Before the news channels cut off and everyone dropped dead, reporters and scientists told the world that a new strain of influenza had been discovered…and that’s all Ginger could remember.
                              Sixteen was not the age when people generally started watching CNN, so she wasn’t too pissed about missing the rest of the story. It’s not like knowing the facts would bring her parents, brother, friends—anyone—back.
                              She was alone, alive, and stuck in a world full of corpses.  Luckily, none of the dead bodies hopped up and started sniffing for brains to eat, but that was probably the last bit of luck she’d ever get.
                              Ginger's mom succumbed first; she went to bed with a headache and never woke up. Ginger was glad, in a way, that it happened like that because her mom didn’t see anyone else suffer. Her brother, who was only five, practically coughed up a lung the next week. He was delirious by the end, and kept asking Superman for help.Of course, he pleas went unanswered.
                              Ginger didn’t know she had so many tears, and her dad cried right alongside her; they were so wrapped up in their grief that they didn’t notice the rest of the world going to hell. The mailman stopped coming, the neighbors didn’t walk their annoying ankle-bitters, and the sound of traffic from the highway puttered out.
                              It wasn’t until her dad spiked a fever that Ginger realized how deep of a shitstorm she was in. She called 911 and no one answered. She banged on her neighbor’s doors, shouting that she need help, but every house she went to was quiet and dark. She drove to town looking for flu remedies, only to end up a spectator as a mob ransacked Walmart. She watched her English teacher beat an old man over the head with a tire iron just to get a pack of Sudafed.
                              By the time she got home—empty-handed—her dad was gone. His wide, glassy eyes stared down at Gulliver’s Travels, his favorite book, for the last time. Part of her was glad he’d died doing something he loved, but part of her was angry he’d left her alone. The child in her was just sad.
                               Ginger had dropped to her knees in front of him and sobbed. For three days she stayed in the house, until the smell of death and rot permeated her pores. Knowing there was nothing left for her, she packed a bag and left.
                              But death had settled like dust on her town, her family one of many to perish. She drove through the streets, honking her horn like a mad person, hoping that someone—anyone—still survived. But no one peeked out from behind lace curtains or yelled at her to stop making such a racket. Eventually, even her car’s horn died.
                              She went to her best friend’s house, but couldn’t make herself go inside when no one answered the doorbell. Instead, she got back in her car and drove to the grocery store. The windows were broken and jagged glass gaped around the edges like teeth. She hopped inside and wandered the dark isles; nothing but the medicine section was disturbed.
                              Rows and rows of food sat before her, neatly stacked on shelves and boxed like delicious presents. Hers alone for the taking. A last bit of luck. A morbid gift from the universe—an apology for leaving her alive while the rest of humanity perished.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Saturday Short Story: Anything But A Wake

When someone dies, everyone who knew them stinks of death.
Being the only kid at a wake is like being the only living person in a morgue: slightly creepy and very uncomfortable. But that’s what happens when your dad dies. At least, it’s what happened after my dad died.
 First, the drawn-out stay in the garbage-green hospital “suite”. Gotta love the insurance company’s generosity. The one rickety chair had been shoved into the only space not occupied by beeping machines. Not that dad noticed. His heart attack left him comatose until the end. But I definitely noticed.
I lived in that chair for weeks. I missed Algebra and going to prom just so I could wiggle deeper into the uncomfortable depths of that faux-leather chair and watch as Dad’s skin got paler, his breathing more labored.
So, really, it’s not like I didn’t know it was coming.
But when the vultures descended, that’s when it really hit me.
 Family members I’d never met swooped in and cried over him like his pulse had already stopped. Some brought flower arrangements so gloomy they shouldn’t even be allowed in a cemetery. One lady had the nerve to ask me about his will.
And then it happened. I was reading a lame magazine article about how many times LiLo has been in jail, when the beeping that had long-since faded to ambient background noise suddenly roared to life. Then the screen with zigzagging squiggles went nuts.
It was pretty much over by the time the doctor strolled in. He checked the charts, went through the motions of trying to resuscitate, and declared Dad dead at 9:10 pm.
After that, people patted my head like I was some kind of imbecilic dog, and then took over my life. A distant, twice-removed aunt snatched the funeral planning from me and never asked my opinion. Dad was put in a hideous coffin and dropped six-feet-under before I’d even caught my breath.
And, like some kind of child-sacrifice, I was constantly surrounded by people I don’t know, all of whom a cloaked themselves in insincere sorrow and cheap black outfits. The ritual of Dad’s funeral was beyond abhorrent. Men and women keep whispering, “It’ll get better,” right before they stumble their way over to the bar.
But it won’t.
I’d rather be back in that horrible faux-leather chair, Dad dying right in front of me, than standing amidst so many strangers. There’s nothing better about life now.
Dad made me grilled cheese on rainy days. He grounded me when I was stupid and tried to sneak out. He told me stories about Mom, because I was too young to know her when she died.
He loved me.
…and I don’t see how anything could be better than that.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Saturday Short Story: Sacrifice

The full moon’s glow wasn’t soft and milky like she’d thought it would be; instead, it bathed her in harsh white, making her skin prickle with unease. Walking under the midnight sun was forbidden to her kind, as Malrin well knew, because it peeled away illusions and left only truth in its wake.
But it was worth the risk.
Ghosts and goblins whispered through the darkness, calling to her. Malrin ignored them, uncaring that their evil gazes followed her every step. They hid from the moon, keeping themselves shrouded in shadows and gloom. Hiding like rats, she thought with disgust.
Such insignificant little demons weren’t what had called from her home, nor would they stop her with their wicked whispers. As the mother of a monster, she was protected from them. The Skyborn, however, would not flinch at stopping her.
She was out at the wicked hour, when evil was most tempted to roam. The Skyborn would assume—rightly—that she’d been claimed for darkness as a creature without hope of redemption. Her head would fall from her body should they find her, and she had no protection. The Skyborn were not mortal nor demon, and their justice was final.
Rising from a Skyborn wound was impossible, no matter who she’d birthed.
A howl sliced the eerie night, blending pain and fear into a sharp blade. The whispers of the lesser demons vanished as they cowered, but Malrin grinned. There was only one beast who could squeeze such exquisite sounds from the living: her son.
He'd fled into moonlight, tempted by the draw of wickedness that filled the dark.
She followed the keening whimpers following that first shout of agony, her feet sure as they led her deeper into the night; though the moon’s light cut into powers of illusion, Malrin’s instinct was strong. Finding her little monster would be easy.
“Wicked one,” she called, her voice lilting. “Where are you?” A squeal from the shadows made her grin. “Are you playing hide-and-seek, my evil love?” she teased.
“No,” replied a deep voice.
Malrin gasped and stumbled back. A Skyborn! The warrior stepped forward and she trembled. He was tall and broad, and at least a foot taller than she was. But that is not what made her pale in fright. She pitched forward, grasping at the little body dangling from his arms.
The Skyborn held her son up, just out of reach, and Malrin whimpered. “Please!” she begged, “He is just a boy!”
The warrior’s laugh rang out, making her wince. It was a pure, good sound that grated on her; even her bones tingled with his mirth. “Young does not mean good,” he said. “You think to fool me?” he shook her child, causing her precious son to cry.
“Please! I’ll do anything you ask!” She dropped to her knees. “Anything!”
The Skyborn looked thoughtful, and Malrin felt a glimmer of hope. “Anything?” he asked.
“Yes!” She crawled to his feet and groveled. “He is my only child, my whole world. Please spare him!”
“I’ll accept your plea,” the Skyborn said.
Malrin looked up, shocked. She’d thought he was just teasing her, torturing her before beheading them both. “Thank you,” she breathed.
A grim smile creased his face. “It won’t be free, little witch. Don’t thank me until you hear my terms.”
Malrin cringed, but didn’t look away from his piercing gaze. “Anything,” she repeated, her voice soft.
The Skyborn chuckled. “Not many such as you would give up anything for their progeny. Your little monster,” he shook her son again, causing him to wail pitifully, “must be special.”
Malrin felt a tear—the first in a hundred years—fall down her cheek. “I love him,” she confessed to the Skyborn. Such a feeling was despicable to her race; it marked her as a traitor.
The Skyborn didn't even blink at her confession. His holy gaze was unwavering as he said, “Then willingly agree to my terms and I will spare his life." He paused to let his words sink in, and Malrin nodded vigorously. She'd vowed anything, and she'd meant it.When he spoke again, his voice was softer, as if he were breaking bad news. "First, you must make peace with your own death; you shall not grow older than you are tonight."
She'd expected it, so she nodded again.
"Second, give unto me this child to raise as my own.”
Malrin gasped. “You?” It was inconceivable. Her child was born of evil and magic, a true monster. He looked mortal, but his soul was fire and ash.
“Did you ever wonder where Skyborn come from?” the warrior asked. He looked down at her son, a hard glint in his eyes. He dropped the boy, and her little monster whimpered as he hit the ground.
Malrin scrambled over and cuddled him, rocking gently as she felt his familiar little body shudder against her own. Already knowing it was the last time she’d ever hold him, she closed her eyes and breathed in his scent; she absorbed it into herself so she’d have it to cherish once she was banished to hell upon her death.
“We, the Skyborn, are not a race,” the warrior said, his words falling from his tongue in a cadence, as if recited from memory. “Born into the world, we are first creatures of dark. Some are birthed by humans. Others are spawned by demons. But only a few spring from the wombs of witches.” He looked down at Malrin’s son with something akin to affection. “But despite what we were born to be, we were taken. Bathed in glory and goodness, our bodies and souls are reborn and molded into warriors. But, of course, none of it can happen without free will—and sacrifice. That’s where you come in. If you wish your son to live eternally, you must willingly agree to die by my sword.”
Malrin’s heart broke. “And he’ll be your next conversion,” she whispered. More tears slipped freely down her cheeks. Her beautiful little monster whimpered in her lap, his body quivering. He was perfect, malicious and cruel, and the thought of him being warped…it hurt to even think it.
But worse was the soul-deep knowledge that the Skyborn warrior would kill them both if she didn’t agree. As much as she hated the thought of her child changing into a beacon of righteousness, she hated the thought of him dying even more.
With trembling lips, she pressed a gentle kiss to her son’s head. When she looked up at the Skyborn towering above her, she felt fear. It wasn’t often that a witch felt anything at all, but birth—and now death—were taking a toll on her emotions. “I agree,” she whispered.
The moon’s white light glinted on the warrior’s sword as he whipped it out of its scabbard. Malrin closed her eyes and shoved her son from her lap so he wouldn’t be in danger. The whistling sound of a blade cut through the night…