Friday, 29 August 2014

The Reaper's Thunderhead

“Ashes to ashes, dust to dust…” the priest stood in the rain holding his umbrella over his head, as he read from the well-worn bible with the other.
Andrew was my best friend, my lover… my husband.  And now he was gone.  His whole family was taken by what was known as a myth in my family: The Reaper’s Thunderhead.  A thunderstorm where a Reaper visits you while the power’s out for a moment and takes your soul from you… it’s freaking scary as all shit when you’ve been told two different stories about it – one where it’s true, and other where it’s crap.

Exactly who do you believe when this has happened to your inlaws and the person you’ve devoted the last twenty years to?

I had attended every service of Andrew’s family and watched their numbers dwindle as he did.  Each time, a year had passed and each time there had been a storm on the night of their passing… just as there had been on the night of Andrew’s passing.
And he wasn’t old either.
My dear sweet Andrew – Andy – Swinston was only thirty-three years old when he was in Vegas on a business meeting with some clients at the Desert Rose Hotel.  He decided to skip going to the casino (he wasn’t much of a gambler) and head straight for his room.  Besides, a storm was brewing and he didn’t want to get caught between the casino and his room.  In between the power failing and the generator kicking in – which was only about twenty seconds – my wonderful love of my life lost his life.

He was in his room by the time the lights went out.
He had locked the door and windows – as the rain was coming in.
So, how the Reaper had come in was a huge mystery to everyone.

But the M.E. said the same thing about how he died that was on the other medical reports:  heart attack.

This was bullshit.  My husband worked out, ate healthy, hated junk food and wouldn’t even tolerate it in the house.  So, I wanted to know what the hell happened to him!
I went in search of people who dealt with Reapers professionally. 

Now, call me nutsie-Malone, but when I looked around between the cracks of what we called ‘society’, I found people who dealt with the underground of what we called ‘normal humanity’… and they had been watching Andrew’s family closely for over a decade.
I sat down on the end of the bed in the no-star hotel as the two guys watched me carefully, “What do you mean, you’ve watched his family?”
“Well,” the fatherly one referred to his hand-written notes, “Andrew and his whole family were cursed to die – even his offspring – to be handed over to a certain Reaper.” He glanced over his reading glasses as he went on, “And it was a deal Andrew’s Great-Great-Great Grandfather made with a demon that has you in this crap.”
“I’m not in any crap.” I said, “My husband died, and he’s the youngest of his family.”
The young man sitting near me sighed, “Not quite.  You’re pregnant, aren’t you?”
I protectively folded an arm across my stomach, “No… yes.”
“The Reaper will want your young one… and he will destroy you to get at him or her.” The older one said removing his glasses and watching me, “Now, you either terminate your pregnancy, which would piss off the Reaper and he’ll kill you simply on principle.  Or you ride out the next storm – which will come in a few days.”
“And he’ll kill me just for my baby.” I whispered rubbing my stomach, “Okay, there is a way out of this… I came to you two to fix this.”
“Right… there is a solution, but it’s not going to be nice.” The young guy said.
“If it ends the curse, I’m happy… because I’m not going to freak out every time there’s a storm just in case my child is killed by something my family doesn’t believe in.”

I found out their names.  The older one was Roger, the younger guy Benny; they were father and son and had lived what they called ‘The Life’ since Benny’s mother was killed by a Crossroads Demon who screwed them over about fifteen years ago.  Seeing Benny was only around twenty years old, he doesn’t know any other life… but he has street-smarts and this is good.
They inspected my home which Andrew inherited and spotted a few things around the place which were marks of The Reaper which gave us absolutely no protection. 
“Your husband’s family had tried to protect you, but The Reaper easily destroyed the marks to get to you once you and Andrew had a child.” Roger shook his head, “And …” he looked down at the garden where he spotted a patch of dirt which wouldn’t grow, “Have you been able to grow anything here?”
“No.  I’ve been trying, but…”
Both Benny and Roger exchanged a worried look and Benny sprinkled some water over the area and it sizzled as though it was hot, sending up steam, “Crap.  It’s been here … as recent as last night or early this morning.  Just watching you.”
My gut cooled, “When is the storm due?”
Roger looked over at the horizon as the wind picked up, temperature suddenly dropped a few degrees and we heard a grumble of thunder, “Ten minutes.”
I looked at them both:  “Let’s do this.”

The lights went out as the skies darkened quickly.
I felt a horrible cold presence behind me as I stood at the window, and I knew it was almost time to either die or fight for my life.
I knew Roger was at the door, and Benny couldn’t be far behind him as I heard their steps stop.
Looking up, I smelled the dreadful…
…scent… of death…
A white hand swiped at me in the gloom as lightning flashed outside… it was then I saw the skeletal face of Death standing in front of me.  

Fear stilled me…
…Courage made me break the bastard’s curse by using his scythe against him!

The power came back on and there was a black smouldering robe on the floor and I held a sizzling white hot scythe in my hands.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Michelle's Daily Movements

It was early morning when Michelle sat at her desk, propped her cordless phone onto the bookshelf next to her and dropped her mobile two shelves below and carefully placed her hot chocolate on the coaster on the shelf between them.
The computer hummed, ready for her to type… to edit… to delve into the other world of her being the writer, instead of the person everyone knew.
Her brain switched into the other mode she knew so well as she slid into her business-style chair and turned it around – away from the door – and began to type.
Her hands sped across the keyboard, as the world she had created within her mind expanded, fleshed out, became her own, and the characters within her world ran, stabbed, killed, ate, drank and made love to each other in such a way she felt as though they were her own friends… and she had a private little camera crew showing of their lives. 

Once in a while, she’d turn and take a long gulp from her sweet  hot chocolate and read over what she’d written, correcting her spelling, groaning over how she didn’t write this or that better (and fixing those things up as she place the mug between her arms and typing quickly; allowing the warmth of the mug to touch her arms before she’d pick it up again and keep on reading). 

Before she knew it, Michelle had finished her few chapters – her 3,000 word limit had been reached – and she had long drunk her hot steaming mug.  It was time for a shower.

She scrubbed the chilliness that had settled into her pores, hoping the stinging heat of the water would warm her at some point.  Steam rose around her, worming into her sinus’, wetting her hair, and sending temporary shivers up her spine.
She had been still too long and the cold of the day had set into her joints.  She hated this, but she needed to get herself warm for the next part of her day.


This was another kind of work that people knew she did but didn’t think she took seriously.  She worked the craft markets and so worked on craft pieces for hours on end… sitting still at her back door at a craft table.  Her hands always moving, her mind moving, but her body staying completely still – really frustrating – but what she got finished was great!

After finished blow-drying her hair, brushing its frizziness, she snapped on her watch, blew her nose on a tissue before throwing it away and then pulled on her ugg-boots and turned off the bathroom light and walked back into the office to collect everything she needed to go downstairs.  Grabbing the camera – in its snood – the cordless phone, and mobile phone and looping her fingers through the handle of the empty mug, she checked the computer, to make sure it was switched off, and then turned and walked out the door, shimmied past the hall table and down the steep stairs to the living room. 
It was freezing down here… but she was dressed warmly in her paint-covered track pants and jumper.  After putting down the empty mug in the kitchen, she walked to the stereo system, push the button ‘Video’ for the turntable and flipped through her collection to choose the music for the afternoon.  This would keep her from getting cold and make sure she was active every few minutes.  The first album of Santana’s ‘Moonflower’ was selected and she put on the second album side 2 on… sweet!  Drum beats started and she boogied her way around the living room as she picked up the remote and upped the volume, loving how this music got her moving every time!  Bopping her head, she opened the fridge, grabbed one of the covered paint plates and put it onto the paint-covered denim mini-skirt she used as a rag for her brushes.  Then, she danced out to the cheap clothes horse where a few picture frames were set out drying, chose one, boogied backed to her craft table, slipped into her bright green swivel chair, pulled back the plastic, grabbed the bottle of flow medium and got the paint working – making it thinner without losing consistency – and then grabbed a paintbrush and began working on painting a fine, dainty vine around the picture frame…

Three hours passed and Michelle had changed the vinyl four times, organised a drink for herself, grabbed something to eat, waited for two coat hangers to dry, painted six sprung pegs, five dolly pegs and finished up one picture frame… yep, a lot of had happened. 

Most of all, the afternoon had begun to turn into night… the shadows had begun to turn dark across the backyard and the house was becoming darker. 
It was time for dinner – at 4pm.  Michelle decided pizza would be perfect.
She pulled out a large metal bowl, self-raising flour, dry yeast, olive oil and a ¼ cup of hot water.  She sifted the flour, put in a teaspoon of yeast, about a tablespoon of olive oil and put in the hot water then grabbed the wooden palette from next to the stove where the other utensils were stored in a container and she mixed it all together carefully, folding it all, not letting the air out… until it was a ball of soft, dough.  She placed a t-towel over it and set her iPod for an hour.  Then she got to work, chopping up her favourite things for pizza:  cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, olives, capsicums, garlic… all the good stuff!  Cut a piece of baking paper, sprinkled some flour on it and put on the oven.  Before long, the timer went off, she rolled out the dough, put on the ingredients and put it into the oven for 20 minutes!

Bell rang!

Michelle opened the door, heat rolls out invitingly with the aroma of pizza! 

“Oh!  Yummo!  Dinner!” she pushed the slide under it, took it to the cutting board, cut it into quarters, served it up and bit into the first slice before even sitting down at the table!

Saturday, 16 August 2014

I See Red...

The sun was setting when I approached the house, casting a burnt orange/red glare across the sky on our first of many meetings at her place of mystery.
Auburn’s real name is still a mystery to a lot of people, as she’s been around for so long.  However, being a writer for the ‘On The Bottom Line’ Newspaper, it was an honour to be asked to write an article about this long-time author and artist.  She had been in the public eye for such a long time, I don’t remember exactly when she was born, as she’s never told anyone her date of birth.

Today, I was going to ask… see what was going to happen.
Would she tell me?
Would she laugh?
Would something else happen?
I pushed the large iron gate closed behind me and walked along the winding path up to her front steps.  This place was immense!  So many plants and there was so little room in this garden… it appeared to be a complete mess, and yet, it wasn’t.
I walked across the impressively wide verandah and rang the bell by the door, then waited for her to answer the door.  While I did, I looked around, and resisted photographing this place… I just didn’t want to interfere with her privacy – not yet.
“Hello. You must be the reporter.” Her voice behind me was surprisingly young.
I turned to find a face of youth, “Um… yes.  Ms Aurburn?”
“Call me Red, all my friends call me Red.” She smiled and her beauty shone through, and I almost forgot why I was there, “Please come in.”
Smiling I walked through the door and into her house, catching a glimpse of the outside as the sunset of the day turned the rest of the garden, skies and outside completely red – as red as Auburn’s hair.

We sat in her beautifully furnished home talking about her many publications and art exhibitions for what seemed like hours as we ate a light snack set out on a huge dining table.  I felt as though I had come through that famous wardrobe into Narnia and I was dining within royal halls as the pieces inside Auburn’s home were from overseas, collectable, and there were some things around the place I notice that I just hadn’t seen before – ever! – and I didn’t have the courage to ask her where she had gotten them.  But she told me anyway without me asking.
This made me wonder how she knew what I was going to ask without me asking.

“I think I have enough notes to get an article on you.” I rose from my seat, “Thank you for your time.  You really must be busy.”
“It was an absolute pleasure.” She rose as I did and followed me to the door, “I look forward to reading the article.”
As I walked out to the curb where my car had been parked, I found it was gone!  So, I pulled out my phone and called my office, but they hadn’t heard of me and hung up before I could say any more.  I went back inside to Auburn’s place and she opened the door, “I think something has happened.”
She smiled, “Yes it has.”
“What’s happened?” I nearly didn’t want to hear her tell me, but I needed to know.
“You came here, you saw red before, you saw red… and now… you’re seeing red again.” Amusment played in her eyes.
Frustration tightened in my gut, “What the hell does that mean?”
“Red… three times… think about.”
“I gotta go.”  I turned and walked away.

Walking through the gate so the local cemetery I looked around at the place, and found where our family plot was.  I walked up to the plots, where they lay side by side, and found mine.

I felt sick as I read the stone: I saw red, I saw Red, I saw … red.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Charlie and the....Woah!

“Charlie!  Time to get your lazy butt outa bed and get dressed!”
Mum’s voice screamed up the stairs and somehow infiltrated under my doona, two pillows and through my long hair.  Shit she can really bum a dude out.
“Crap!” I throw the pillow covering my head across the room with my eyes shut and hear it bounce off the wardrobe door as it shudders a little and bumps closed, quietly clicking onto the magnets.
Hang on… I didn’t have a wardrobe door like that!  My sister did!  My wardrobe door was a large rolling door!  I sat up and looked around: “What the f…” I didn’t get to finish the profanity that was coming out of my mouth when I heard a shattering scream split the air – yep, my sister.  I climbed over the end of the pretty white, four-poster bed and stared at my face – um her face, our face, um – in the mirror.
“Darren!” her voice was at the door, “Open this immediately.”
I walked to it, unlocked it – why did she lock everything? – and let her in, “Get in here.  And stop screaming.”  I watched as a very feminine version of me sat on the edge of the bed, crossed his legs and began playing with his hair, “Jesus, man, you’re such a girl.”
“Screw you… have you seen yourself?”
“Yeah, I have.” I nodded sitting next to her… him, um… “What  do we do now?”
“You and your friggin’ magicks.”
“Hey, I didn’t do this.”
The door opened and Mum was standing there, “No, he didn’t, but your father and I did.”
“What?” I stood and began to pace, “Mum!  I look stupid.”
“Correction, you feel stupid… you and your sister have changed places and this will stay like this for a week until you both learn to respect each other.” She looked from me to my sister, Charlie, “Now, both of you get ready for school!”
We exchanged horrified expressions:  “School?”

We caught the bus halfway to school, felt as though everyone was staring at us and then got off at the mall where we walked to the nearest library and found out that what Mum and Dad did wasn’t in any book there – of course! – so we had to look around home to see which of my spell books Mum had gotten her hands on.
“What do you mean, you might know which one it is?” Charlie hissed.
“I mean, I might know which one it is.” I replied, “And I’ll have to search my book collection when we get home.  Come on, we have another kilometre to go until we get home… and school will be over by that time.”
She sighed, “I hate this.”
“You’re not the only one.” I pulled at the bra strap on my shoulder, “How do you put up with bras?”
She smiled, “It’s actually not too bad to not have to put one on for once.”
“Shut up.”

We searched my bedroom for the spell book I was looking for, but our folks had taken it.  Searching the house wasn’t on the cards as our Mum was a Clean Queen from way back – she’d know if we had been snooping for anything. 
We sat in my original bedroom with music going and I talked, “Okay, I know Gary might have an idea of the spell.  He was weird enough to copy the whole book out when I bought it… now I know why he did.”
“Such a freak.”  She muttered.
“Shut up.” I said grabbing my mobile and texting him.
Gary walked into my room half an hour later with Mum smiling behind him, “Gary’s here.” She looked at me, “Charlie, help me with dinner, okay?”
“But, Mum…”
“Now.” The smile fell off her face as glanced at my ‘sister’ and Gary.  I left with Mum and wondered what was going to go on while I was gone.  I helped Mum set the table, feed the dog, put out the rubbish (which I didn’t know my sister did), clean up the lounge room (twice, because Mum wasn’t happy with the first attempt) and then I cut up the veggies and put them into a bowl of water to be ready to roast.  Then, Mum told me to ‘ready the chook’… I’ve never seen her do this! But I did as I was told and readied the chicken – and then, I scrubbed my hands until they were raw but they still smelled like dead chicken and butter!

Gary left with a worried look at his face.  He knew what was going on as he dragged me outside, “Dude, your…” he looked me up and down, “…sister, told me what was going on.  You have my absolute trust I won’t tell anyone.”
“Are you sure?” I pushed a curl behind my ear.
He spotted that reflex and blinked, “Yeah… My Aunt and Uncle did this to my cousins last year… it was shit!  It was embarrassing.  I didn’t want to tell you; and now I won’t tell anyone about this.”
“The spell, though.”
He smiled, “She has it.”
“Thank you.”
That night, after dinner, Charlie and me cast the reversal spell.  I know we did it correctly, but we had to wait until sunrise to see if it took effect.

I opened my eyes the next morning and I was still in my sister’s room.  But it felt different.  I wasn’t mad about this for some reason as I sat up and looked in the mirror; not until I looked in the mirror and realised I was still my sister.
A tap at the door sounded and I opened it to see my sister looking at me… my blond-haired, blue-eyed sister… looking at me!
“I was going to say it worked, but it doesn’t look like it.” She said.
“Get in here.” I opened the door wider and she rushed in and I slammed it shut, “We did it right!”
“What went wrong?”
“Charlie?  Darren?  You both in there?” Mum asked tapping her nails on the door.
I opened it, “What did you do?”
“You didn’t wait the week out, and used a reversal spell.  It reverses the effects on your sister… but it makes the spell permanent on you.” she grinned, “Charlie, you’ve always wanted a sister… haven’t you?”

Saturday, 2 August 2014

The Miraculous Archive

Chuck gave us a list of 10 titles to work with... I chose above title and below is what I did with it! Enjoy!

It was impossible.  

Totally and completely.

How as she to fix this problem was beyond her?  

Tess opened her PO Box and sighed at the envelopes waiting for her inside the tiny dark hole, knowing they were bills she had to pay.

She hated her life.

There wasn’t enough money in her life.
By the time she paid her rent, bought her food and paid her bills, she didn’t have any money left to put away for savings… and she was working full-time.
Pulling the envelopes out she found they had been hiding a parcel pick-up card.  It was red – this meant, it needed her signature – so she locked up the little door, pulled the key out and made her way inside the place.

It was starting to rain when Tess got home with the large box in her car.  As she pulled into her car port, she looked over at the opened parcel in the passenger seat and wondered exactly what was in that box, and who in the hell had sent it to her.  So, instead of waiting for the rain to get heavier, she got out of the car, after grabbing her stuff and went inside where  - within minutes – the light rain turned into a downpour.
“Well, at least this was a good thing for once today.” She groaned turning on the kettle. 

Once she made herself some coffee, she sat down, paid the bills (and was once again broke for the month) and then looked at the unexpected parcel.  She inspected the wooden box, wondering how to open it, when the lid slid off and a large blue book was exposed.  It wasn’t much to look at – in fact she thought it was kind of ugly – but it was something of a curiosity as she’d never seen anything like it before.  There was a note inside the box:

‘Tess, you don’t know me very well.  We met at a bookstore a few years ago and you said you were curious about the book I was reading at the counter here in San Fran.  Well, I had promised you this book once I was finished with it… now my time has come to hand it onto you. 
If it’s arrived at your postal address, this means I have passed away.  I was suffering from the Big C when you met me but it caught up with me.  This book is called The Miraculous Archive.  It doesn’t look much, but it’s lots of fun – just don’t let it out of your sight!  In the wrong hands it’s dangerous!  
Your friend in this life and the next, Michael.’

She remembered now!  Wow!  It had been around five years since her vacation in the USA, and he remember her?  Well, that’s something!  She hadn’t remembered Michael too well, but then, she had only visited his store in San Francisco once on a stinking hot day to find a notebook to use as a diary and he tossed a pen for a good price and they chatted about this book for around ten minutes and that was it!  She never went back… and he did promise to hand it onto her when he was finished with it.
Tess put down the note and pulled the book from the box carefully.  It felt heavier than it looked as she sat down in her favourite easy-chair, put her coffee on the little stand by the arm and opened it to the first page:  but it was blank.  She turned to the next pag and it was blank as well!  Flipping the pages between her thumb and first finger, she found they were all blank! She just didn’t get how this was going to be an archive if there was shit all in it!  Tess rose from the chair, walked to her tall bookcase across the living room and slotted in next to her other books she considered useless – yep, her textbooks from high school.

Weeks passed and Tess’s life moved on.  She found herself a better job with better pay and for the first time in a long time, she could finally start saving up for something.  She opened a bank account and started saving up for a holiday overseas – her next big thing on her bucket list.
She didn’t take much notice of the big blue book on her shelf as it was empty.  And so, when she scored her first two weeks’  holidays, she found she wanted to do nothing more than give her home a good clean out – and do up her garden too.  She wanted to make her place feel good – as good as she needed to feel when she arrived home each day. Halfway through the dusting, she looked at The Miraculous Archive and found it had a newer look to it – a much cleaner appearance than it did than when she first collected it from the post office.  So, she put down her dusting cloth and pulled it off the shelf and sure enough, the book looked, felt and smelled as though she had just bought it brand new! 
“Woah… this is…” she didn’t want to say ‘miraculous’ in case she was going to jinx it.  On opening the cover, the pages were gorgeously new with brilliant gold-trimmed edges!  She wondered how this book became so … so, “Now what do I do?”
As though it had heard her question, the book gave her the answers: ‘Do with me what you wish… I am The Miraculous Archive, a living entity of information.  Ask me a question about anything and I will endeavour to give you an answer.’
Slapping the book shut, Tess dropped it to the floor!  It landed with a loud thud as she took a step back.  And stared at it with tears filling her eyes, she realised her life could be a success if she asked this book the right questions… 

but could it also lie to her?