Saturday, 28 February 2015

Love Story - Part IV

Okay!  We're back at it again.... but it's part IV!!!  I've picked out one which has a softer side, and yet is still a bit on the paranormal side too... 'Love Story'... this is truly one for the lovers from both sides of the equation - the mortal coil and beyond the pearly gates as well!


Part I (by lisboeta1)
Holy crap! It’s him, I heard my inner voice yell out. I was sitting in a small booth in my favorite coffee shop doing what I do best; drinking coffee and reading. As my eyes wondered from the pages of the book to the crowd gathering by the registers I saw him. He hadn’t changed much in the last twenty years. If anything he seemed to have improved like a good wine. I noticed that he was even taller than the last time I had seen him all those years ago. Thick blondish curly hair still framed his handsome face and his slanted almond-shaped eyes looked just like I remembered them. Not the skinny, slightly awkward young man he had been at 18, his well-toned arms and chest now stretched the black plain t-shirt he was wearing. He had obviously just come from the gym, sweatpants hanging low on his tight hips and sneakers on his feet. A smile crept up to my lips; I remembered him saying that his mom used to tell him that when he died he would die standing up because of his giant feet. God! I remembered our conversations as it was only yesterday.
My eyes went to his hands, big and masculine, and a shiver went through me. I remember well the feeling of those hands on my body. I was so young back then. Still, I was about two years older than him, an “older woman”. For all sense of purpose I was an adult but I still fell hard for the young man he was then. The first time I laid eyes on him, walking across the hotel atrium, I was lost. My heart fluttered every time I saw him and my legs turned to Jell-O every time we spoke. Ours was a whirlwind romance that lasted a few days but left a soft spot in my heart for 20 years. I always thought of James as the one who got away. And now, there he was, a mere few feet away from me, and my heart was doing that familiar flip-floppy thing it had always done in his presence. What was he doing here? More to the point; what was I going to do?

Part II (by Helen Espinosa)
As it turned out, I didn’t need to do anything at all. Before I could even begin to think whether it was a good idea or not to walk up to him, our eyes met and a slow smile spread across his face as recognition dawned in his eyes. My heart picked up speed inside my chest and my face felt hot as the blood rushed to it. God, I hated that! I hated the fact that I couldn’t control the blush as it flamed across my face in what I knew was a bright red color.
I put my head down as he started walking in my direction, trying to get the color under control. I didn’t know what to do with my hands, so they became a tight knot in my lap that grew tighter the closer he got to the booth. I look like an idiot just sitting here. I stood up and lifted my head to meet his eyes once again, startled at how close he was and that he was still getting closer. My eyebrows lifted as he walked right up to me and put his arms around me like we were old friends.
“Oh my God, Liz! It really is you!” He leaned back, his hands holding my upper arms as he took a long look at me that did nothing to help the heat in my face.
“Hi James.” I sounded so awkward.
“Where have you been all these years? What happened to you?”
“Me? I seem to recall it was you who disappeared.” I said it with a smile but watched as something flitted across his eyes and it looked like he was going to say something but he dropped his hands instead and cleared his throat. What was that about?
He finally said, “I can’t believe it’s you after all these years. How have you been?”
“I’m good, just, you know. I don’t know.” I didn’t know where my eyes should go, so I looked down and shuffled my feet. My eyes landed on my coffee sitting on the table and the book beside it. I gestured towards it with my hand. “This is my favorite place for coffee and a book.” I glanced back up at him and caught him smiling at me.
“That’s one of the things I remember best about you. You always had a book. It’s nice to see that some things don’t change.”
“Can you stay a while? Catch up? I can buy you some coffee…” The words trailed away as I realized how dumb I sounded. God, I was so nervous. I wanted the shaky feeling in my stomach to settle down so I could breathe.
“Damn, Liz, I wish I could. I’ve gotta get showered and get to work. Rain check?” He really looked like he meant it and I almost couldn’t believe my ears. He wanted to see me again? My face went back to flaming just as I thought it had settled down. I couldn’t trust my voice so I just nodded my head.
“Well, uh…” Now he was the one stammering and shuffling his feet.
“Do you… Can I give you my number?” There. I said it. I wanted to see him again, but I knew that if he walked away without leaving me with something, I would probably never see him again. I never thought of our city as a big one, but if he lived here and we hadn’t run across each other in twenty years, who knew how long it would be before we crossed paths again, if ever.
“Of course! Geez, I don’t know why I didn’t think of that.” He let out a short laugh as he reached into his sweat pants. He pulled out his cell phone and punched on the screen a few times then actually held it out to me.
“Here, put it in my phone.”
When I reached for it, our hands grazed slightly and a bolt of electricity jumped from his hand to mine and sent my heart racing again. I looked into his eyes and the world seemed to spin. Could it really be that after all these years he still felt the same way? I wasn’t getting any answers staring into his eyes like a love-struck fool, so I gently took the phone and dialed my number into it. I slowly handed it back to him, suddenly struck dumb, not knowing what to do next.
“Is it okay if I dial it so you have mine?”
“Uh, yeah. That’s perfect, actually.”
I heard my phone buzzing behind me and reached over to click the ignore button. As I looked back at James, I realized he was leaning in again. I didn’t know if my senses could take another hug at this point, but I didn’t want to refuse either, so I hugged him back, trying to keep the tingling under control.
“It was really great to see you, Liz. I almost hate to leave,” he said as he pulled back for a second time in less than five minutes.
“Yeah, I know the feeling.”
We stood there for a few minutes more in an awkward silence that hung suspended between us. I didn’t know what else to do so I said, “Take care of yourself, James.”
He smiled again, “You too, Liz. I’ll call you.” And then he turned and walked away.

My entire body was wobbly and I fell back into the booth with a loud swoosh and sat staring at my now cold coffee. Could I even hold out hope that he would call me? Did I even dare to invest my heart in something that had lasted only two days twenty years ago? The crazy thing was, I’m not sure my heart was giving me a choice. It was still beating so fast and I knew that if he didn’t call or text or something, I would be heartbroken all over again.

part III (by me)

I didn’t know what to do next, so I gathered my things and headed out the door. I thumbed my phone as I picked it up, intent on saving James’ number before I lost the only connection I had to him.

I walked back to my condo. It was time to stop mooning over James, but I didn’t know how I was going to concentrate when all I could think about was our last encounter – his hands on my body, his lips hot against mine, his skin silvered in the pre-dawn light.
I let myself in, trudging upstairs to drop my bag and slip off my shoes, when my phone rang. My heart lurched as James’ name flashed across my screen. I stared at it, afraid to answer and afraid not to. Could he really be calling me? Was it a misdial? I took a deep breath and answered just before it rolled over into voicemail.
“Hello? James?”
“Hi Liz, it’s James. Oh, wait, you already knew that.” He laughed and I did too, relieved that it really was him and that he was just as nervous as I was.
“Yes, your name came up on my phone.”
“Oh, of course. Look, this is going to sound crazy, but can I see you?”
“Yes, I’d like that.” He was asking me out on a date! He really did want to see me again.
“Great! What are you doing?”
“Right now? I thought you had to get to work.” A tiny alarm went off in the back of my mind. Something wasn’t quite right.
“I, uh, just called in and cleared my calendar for the day. I … I just really need to see you, to talk to you.”
“Wow, um, okay.” I desperately wanted to see him again and to find out why he’d disappeared, but I was also wary. This was moving really fast.
“Where are you? Do you want to meet back at the coffee shop?”
“Actually, I’m parked outside your condo complex. Can I come up?”
“What? Did you follow me?” Now I was really confused and more than a little nervous.
“Yeah, but I’m not some creepy stalker, I swear! I just … I made a stupid mistake when I left without saying goodbye, and now that I have another chance, I’m not going to screw up again. Please just let me apologize to you and to explain why I did it. If you don’t want to see me after that, I promise to never bother you again.”
He sounded terribly sincere and more than a little desperate. And although my head screamed out that it was a really bad idea to let James in, my heart wouldn’t listen.
“Um, okay, sure.”
“Great! Can you buzz me in?”
“Oh, yes, of course.” I tried to steady my breath as I hurried downstairs to punch the code on the alarm panel. “I’m in #101, nearest the gate.”
“I know,” he said, which gave me another moment’s hesitation, but I pushed the thought from my mind and opened the door to see James already standing there, one hand poised to knock. He was still in his sweat pants and t-shirt, and he looked both sheepish and relieved.  Any doubts I’d had about letting him in slipped away.
“Come in,” I said. “Sorry about the mess.” He glancing up and down the corridor before closing the door and locking the deadbolt. Again, my mind chirped out a warning, but I ignored it as I started up the stairs, James following behind me. When we got to the top, we stood facing each other, then started to speak at the same time.
“Liz, I …”
“Well, should we sit …”
We both chuckled and he insisted that I go first. “Do you want to sit down?”
“Yes, that’d be great.” We sat on the sofa and he took both my hands in his. They were warm and strong, just as I remembered.
“Liz, I want to apologize. I never should’ve left you without saying goodbye. I have always regretted it.”
“I figured you just weren’t that into me,” I said. I was surprised at the flash of bitterness I felt. He’d broken my heart and although I’d told myself that I’d moved on, I realized that I’d never really gotten over it. “I thought we had something. I thought you were different, but we were both so young …”
“I was a fool and I’m sorry,” he said. “Please believe me when I tell you that I have cherished the memories of our few days together for all these years. Now that I’ve found you again, I intend to make it up to you, if you’ll let me.”
I didn’t know what to say. I had dreamed about this moment for years, but now that it was happening, it felt surreal.
“Why did you leave without saying goodbye?”
He seemed to weigh his options before continuing. “I … had to leave. I had a prior commitment.”
“And you couldn’t even leave me a note or something?” I didn’t want to be angry, but the words spilled out along with tears I thought I’d cried out years ago.
James leaned close, tenderly cupping my jaw in his hand so that my eyes met his. The pain I saw reflected there mirrored my own.
“Liz, I am so sorry. I … it was …” He struggled to find the words, finally blurting out, “I was engaged to be married and I didn’t want to break your heart.”
“Too late!” I tried to swallow the bitterness in my voice, but it seeped out anyway. “So, I was the last big fling as a swinging single, huh? You cheated on your fiance to get with me? Was I worth it?”
“No, please, you don’t understand.” I’d pulled away from his grasp but he caught my face again, turning me to face him and look into his eyes once more.
“Where is your wife now? Or were you hoping to have another fling with me?” I moved to the window, looking out at nothing, still feeling betrayed.
“She’s dead.”
I turned to look at him, and although he was facing me, his gaze was a million miles away. “And, for the record, we never got married. I … got cold feet … and she killed herself … on our wedding day … at least that’s what the paper said.”
“Oh, my god …”
“It was an arranged marriage. We hardly knew each other. I didn’t have anything against her, but I wasn’t ready to get married. I didn’t want to do it, but I had … an obligation …”
I didn’t know what to say. As I moved back to the sofa, he stood to face me as if seeing me for the first time.
“Liz, you’re the only one who can save me. Will you help me?” 

Love Story – Part IV - Mozette

“An obligation?” now he had me curious.  Okay, an arranged marriage was something big, something he couldn’t have gotten out of; but he could have told me about it. I would have understood.
Wouldn’t I?
“Yes.” He gestured that we sit back down, “Please.  Can we sit down for a minute, and I’ll explain.” We sat back on my lounge and he sighed, looking to his hands, trying to pull what he was going to say to together; making sure it was right, “Okay… you and I were starting off on something great.  We met.  We sparked, and I loved everything about you.” His eyes met mine as a smile warmed his face for a moment, and I was right back there with him twenty years ago.  But that smile didn’t last, “Mother and Father didn’t like you.  You’re a Westerner, not of my race… they arranged for me to marry somebody within my religion and my race behind my back, and told me on the day you and I were supposed to meet up for that picnic in San Francisco.  You remember… in that park…”
“… near the Golden Gate Bridge.” I smiled, “Yeah… where those beautiful houses overlook it and there’s plenty of people running around.” I smiled at the memory, “It was the middle of Winter.”
His hand cupped my cheek, “You looked so beautiful in your green knitted scarf and long purple jacket.”
Frowning, I wondered, “How did you know what I wore that day, you never showed up.”
“Yes I did.” James nodded, “Father took me to the park and we sat in the car watching you… he wouldn’t let me talk to you.  He told me that he needed the car and he’d drop me where I needed to go, then… he…” he looked down, “… he took me to our church where I was introduced to her.”
“Didn’t you tell her about me?”
“Oh, Liz, yes… I did.” His eyes begged me to understand, “Cherise was her family’s youngest and only daughter.”
“So, why did she kill herself?”
“I got cold feet because of you.  She knew I would never love her the way I love you; and her brother told her family she was better off dead even if I didn’t marry her.” He looked over his right shoulder as the room turned cold, “Oh, jeez.  Now, you have to understand something…”
“Why is the room cold?” I looked around.
“She wants something out of you.” James said.
Turning to him, I started to shiver, “What could I possibly give her?”
Touching my hand, I watched him disintegrate as his emotions took over, “Liz, she found out we ran into each other.  And she wants you dead.”
Struggling to stand, I turned to find a ghostly white figure flickering into view in front of my television set.  She didn’t look happy and was dressed in shredded wedding attire.
“What the hell…” I stared at her as the lights around my place began to flicker, even though I didn’t have them switched on, “James, I never told you about my brother, Christopher, did I?”
He stood watching Cherise, clearly scared of her, “Um, once.  You told me he died in a car accident when he was in college, that you guys were co-joined twins.”
“Yeah… I didn’t tell you something about him.” I took his hand gently, “You see, I’m not too worried about Cherise.  She’s here for me… that’s fair enough, because well, vengeance is something she’ll have to deal with.  But she’s been hanging around you for twenty years; so she doesn’t know how to let go.” Suddenly, my legs gave out from under me as my right thigh spasmed hard making me cried out.
“Liz, what’s going on?” he knelt by me as I lifted up my skirt and he watched the scar where the operation from when I was a baby lit up a bright blue, “Holy shit!”
“It’s my brother.  Part of his body was left in me by accident… and when he shows up, if he’s angry enough, it cripples me.” I looked around as I saw him glow into existence behind Cherise’s messed-up form.
“Oh wow… he’s so at peace.” James’ mouth dropped, “And you both look so much alike.” Cherise noticed James looking beyond her and she turned, seeing another in the room, readying herself to destroy Christopher.  He simply raised his right hand, open-palmed to the deadly spirit and the room filled with a brilliantly pure white light.  James and I couldn’t watch as it became too bright for us.  We cowered behind the coffee table as our vision filled completely with nothing but light.

My phone ringing made me open my eyes.
The light was gone.
Cherise was gone.
Christopher was gone.
I looked at my leg and the scar that had been there for all those years was gone.  I ran my hand up and down that leg in disbelief, “Wow…it’s… it’s gone.”
James sat there against the lounge looking at it as my phone went to message bank, “Yeah.  They must have cancelled each other out.”
“No. That’s not it.” I answered looking at him, “When was your wedding day?”
“What has that got to do with anything?”
“Just tell me.”
Sighing he pulled out of his wallet, a well-folded piece of paper from a calendar: “Valentine’s Day 1995, at 3pm.”
I reached under the coffee table to the shelf beneath it to where there was a photo album and opened it.  I flipped through the pages and found the one where it had my brother’s booklet they gave out on the funeral service and pulled that booklet out, “My brother died on the same day.” I opened the little booklet and unfolded a newspaper clipping, “But here’s the weird thing: he had a head on collusion with a young woman who was on her way to a wedding named Cherice.  She pulled onto the wrong side of the road on purpose… killing them both instantly.”
He looked at the clipping and recognised Cherice’s car immediately in the photo, “Oh my god.  She was trying to make our families pay because I didn’t love her.  And your brother, where was he going?”
Tears filled my eyes, “I had called him from the park when I told him you had stood me up… he could feel my sadness.  He knew something bad had happened.” I burst into tears, “When his phone went to message bank and I heard the sirens close by, I knew – I could feel – something was wrong.”
“We’re twins… we’re close… my skin started to feel like it was burning.” I said, “Right then, I smelled smoke in the air… and I knew my brother was dead.”
“Is your brother a forgiving kind of person?” he asked.
I sniffed, “Oh James, that’s what he did before with Cherice… she was mad at you for loving me.  You have never gotten over what she did to herself; so she haunted you.  My brother stuck around to protect me… and he also waited for you to come back – to forgive her for doing what she did to him and teach her to forgive herself.”
“But they’re both gone now.”
“It only means what’s he’s taught was right.  She’s okay now.” I said, “She isn’t out to hurt you or me or anyone else.”
He gave back the clipping, “Well, it’s getting onto dinner time.”
“You want to stay for something to eat?  I really could use the company.”
James slid his arm around my shoulders, “Sure.  I’d love to.  And this time I’ll never leave you; not again.”

“Good… I don’t want to lose you again either.”

Saturday, 21 February 2015

The Human Equation - Part Three

Okay!  Here's part three of our four-part story-writing conglomeration!  Woah!  What a mouthful!  But this week, I've taken on 'The Human Equation'!  I said I liked part two last week, but didn't use it.... so this week, I thought to take on part three!

And... as usual:  enjoy!

“Dad, I think it would be best for my emotional growth if I moved into my own apartment. You are always pushing me to be more self-sufficient and independent, but I can’t reach my potential if I’m still relying on you for so much. Please, take a moment to think this through. Isn’t this the next logical step?”
The girl gave her best pleading look.
“Absolutely not! What’s to keep you from having drug filled sex orgies and becoming a delinquent? I’m not having my daughter get pregnant at sixteen!”
“Oh. My. God. You are ridiculous.”
“I’m your father! I didn’t raise you to-”
“No, Rory, I mean you’re being ridiculous. My dad would never react like that and you know it.”
“Hey! You’re supposed to stay in character!”
“Rory, I’m not a character! I’m supposed to be myself in this scenario! And you’re supposed to be my dad, not Leave it to Beaver’s dad. Come on… delinquent? Who says that?”
“Well…” Rory started, her large dark eyes glancing around her room sheepishly, “My mom says it all the time. She says if I keep putting up posters of guys on my walls, that I’ll get boy crazy and become a delinquent.”
“Ha! You already are boy crazy! You’ve been boy crazy since you were, like, ten!”
“Shut up, Chloe! I am not! I’m just looking for Mister Right.”
“Again, you are ridiculous. You should be looking for a driver’s permit”
“Whatever. Why are we even practicing this? We both know your dad is going to say yes. You have, like, the coolest dad ever. He lets you do anything you want.”
Chloe rolled her eyes. None of her friends ever seemed to understand when it came to her dad.
“First, he is like the farthest thing from cool. He spent my entire ninth birthday party explaining how the light photons from the candles worked. Everybody got so bored after two hours they left. I didn’t even get a chance to open my presents until the next day.”
“Well, nerdy is kinda cool now.”
“He wears socks with his sandals!”
“Well, he does let you dye your hair any color you want.”
“That’s because he tried to invent a nano-programed shampoo that styles your hair as you wash it.”
“That actually sounds kinda cool.”
“It made all my hair fall out! I spent all of fourth grade getting tons of ‘get well soon’ cards cause everyone thought I had leukemia. Yeah, he lost all rights to say anything about my hair after that.”
Rory grimaced.
“Yeah, that sounds really sucky.”
“Your family at least watches movies and TV together. When I try to hang out with my dad, he won’t shut up about String Theory and Quantum Tunneling.”
“I’ve never heard of those shows.”
“They’re… never mind.” Chloe slumped on the bed and ran her fingers through her green and white hair, feeling suddenly exhausted. She didn’t resent her dad, or at least she didn’t think she did. But the past couple of years had been so difficult. They used to laugh and talk and go on ‘scientific adventures’. Hell, she had paid such rapt attention to him during his diatribe on photons that she hadn’t even noticed that the other guests had left the birthday party. Now, they struggled to say more than a few words to each other.
“I should get going.” She sighed.
“You okay Chloe?” Rory asked, genuine concern showing in her large eyes.
“Yeah. I’m fine.”
“You gonna ask about the apartment?”
“Yeah. Probably tomorrow. I’ll let you know how it goes.”
As Chloe drove her father’s ’79 Volvo wagon, which weighed more than a Sherman Tank, she couldn’t stop thinking about how much things had changed between her and her father. Deep down, she knew Dad hadn’t really changed. She had been the variable in the equation– she had been the one that changed their relationship simply by growing up. Part of her still wanted to just see him as the hero that knew everything. But a growing part of her was so frustrated at how little he knew about people, especially her. It was like he still saw her as that little girl that drank in his words and not someone nearly a full adult – a near equal.
She parked the Volvo in front of the brick apartment building she called home. Grandpa had left it to them in his will free and clear when he had passed. There were seven living units, but none of the original tenants had stayed more than a year after Dad had become the landlord. He had a habit of neglecting, well, everything. The last straw had been when he converted the basement laundry room into his own personal laboratory. Now it was just the two of them in Unit 1, and if he agreed to her request, she would get her own unit.
Swinging the front door open, she stepped into the main atrium stairwell. The large room was strangely dark, the only light weakly sifting through the glass in the ceiling. Her footsteps echoed loudly. She noticed the sharp smell of something burned wafting through the air.
“Dad?” she asked weakly.
Still no sounds but her own breathing.
The lab. Of course, he would be in the lab.
Walking to the metal door stenciled with the words “laundry”, she opened it and made her way down the concrete steps to the basement. His lab, normally a disastrous mess, looked as though a hurricane had swept through. A single light flickered in the corner, flashing distorted shadows across the room. Something glass shattered on the far side of the room.
“Dad? Is that you?”
She took a tentative step.
A hand gripped her shoulder.
“Jesus H Christ, dad!”
He stood next to her, smiling broadly. There were dark smudges on his face and one of the lenses in his glasses looked cracked.
“Sorry, didn’t mean to sneak up on you.”
She looked around the room as something metal clanged.
“Dad… what happened?”
“Something great! Well, probably great! Here, I’ll show you. Just…” he held his fingers up and started towards the far end of the room, “just wait there.”
When Jon Urquhart returned to his daughter, her eyes bulged and her mouth went agape. When she didn’t say anything for nearly a minute, he laughed anxiously and ran his hand through his receding hair.
“So…Chloe… What do you think of it?”
Finally, her mouth closed and with effort she planted her eyes on him and not the… other thing.
“Dad… I’m moving upstairs.”

"So, he was, like, completely cool with it?" Rory shovelled another spoonful of ice cream into her mouth, kicking her legs happily. The girls sat either side of a tub of chocolate fudge in the nook of the giant steel-barred window that overlooked Chloe’s - yes, all hers, finally - apartment. Great shafts of syrupy afternoon light filtered through a year’s worth of grime and murk, lighting up thousands of busy specks of dust suspended in the musty air of Unit 3.
"Yeah. He didn’t argue or anything, just smiled and nodded. It was almost like he was expecting it." Chloe stared at the wobbly upside-down reflection in her spoon for a moment. It reminded her of all the little ‘experiments’ her dad had helped her carry out when she was tiny, like writing backwards letters and holding them up to a mirror. She still had the paper they’d used, somewhere. "He even helped me move my stuff up."
And it was fun, she thought. For a couple of hours it was like nothing had ever changed between them, and they’d laughed their way up the stairs, balancing boxes and bags and armfuls of clothes. As the last couple of boxes were brought up Dad had grabbed her in a hug, totally out of the blue. He’d grinned, his eyes bright through the lenses of his spare pair of glasses, and promised her he’d fix the fusebox so she’d have power that night.
She’d known better than to put too much faith in that particular pledge (she’d been googling fuseboxes and scribbling frantic notes before the battery on her laptop had died) but as she closed the door on her kind, brilliant, infuriating Dad, Chloe had felt like she was making a huge decision. One she didn’t really understand. She hoped she’d got it right.
"I don’t care what you say, your Dad’s awesome."
"Yeah, you don’t have to live with him."
"Neither do you, now!"
"He’s still downstairs, Rory." Chloe gestured with her spoon towards the floorboards. "When it’s quiet I can hear him trying to break the universe." She scraped up the last of the ice cream.
Rory swung her legs out and dropped down to the floor. “I’m gonna head home before my mom starts freaking out. I’d call and tell her where I am but my battery’s dead and literally nothing works here.”
"I’m working on that. C’mon, I’ll see you out."
As they passed through the atrium on the way out, Chloe slowed gradually to a halt. Something was, well, off. “Wait, Rors.”
Rory turned, halfway down the stairs. She pulled out the earbud she’d just jammed into one ear. “What? Seriously, Chlo, I need to get back.”
"This is going to sound pretty weird, but was it this clean in here before? When you came in earlier?" Chloe ran a finger along the bannister. It came away without the gross layer of tar-like gunk she’d been expecting.
"Yeah, sure." Rory waved an irritable hand. "Why?"
"It’s just - don’t worry about it." Had Dad cleaned up in here? That wasn’t like him at all, Chloe thought. I wonder if he even got around to the fusebox? "It’s nothing. I’ll see you tomorrow."
The apartment block’s front door clattered shut. Chloe took another look around at the spotless stairwell and went to find her dad.
The laundro-lab had looked exactly as it did the night before - a cataclysm of stainless steel and glass - but it was minus one absent-minded scientist. Present, though, was his ‘discovery’ of the previous night. Whatever it was.
Dad had jerry-built a container from a couple of perspex safety screens and hung the thing from a couple of crocodile clip leads used for electrical testing. Stuck to one of the screens was a torn strip of masking tape with the word ‘CASIMIR’ scrawled upon it in Dad’s messy hand.
Chloe forced herself to look at the thing behind the screen. From a distance it looked like a poster-sized sheet of shrink wrap - dull, translucent and inert. If you didn’t know there was anything special about it you’d never give it a second glance.
When you got close enough, though, the air around and behind it seemed to blur and waver, making everything around it seem turbulent, like reflections in troubled water. If you stared too long - and it wasn’t difficult to find yourself doing just that, it was mesmerising - you’d feel dizzy and your eyes would start to run. It reminded Chloe of the comics she used to beg her Dad to buy her when she was a little girl: the ones that came with a pair of 3D glasses that turned the mess on the page into an image that seemed to jump out at you. She made a mental note to see if she had any old pairs of glasses lying around so she could bring them down to try them out.
Guess Dad’s up in our - his - apartment, then. Chloe tore herself away and headed back up to the atrium. Pulling the laundry room door open, she found herself brought up short - standing there, calling up the stairs, was Rory.
"Aurora? What’s up? Thought you’d gone home."
"There you are! Believe me, I tried. There’s some guy outside trying to get into the building. He grabbed me on my way past and insisted I come find you or your dad."
"What? Who? Where is he now?" Chloe peered through the half-frosted pane of glass in the building’s front door. A small brown blur next to a big red one - was that a guy stood next to a car?
"I made him stay outside, obviously. He’s been hammering all the buzzers but I guess they’re still not working, huh."
"Don’t hold your breath. What is he, some sort of salesman or cop or something?"
"No. He looks pretty desperate. He says he used to live here."
Chloe’s gut cooled.  She wondered what the hell was going on; and where was her Dad? Turning back to Aurora, she knew it was up to her to take control of this ‘situation’ her Dad had put her in, “Okay, you go home.  Tell the guy that…”
“I tried, he called me by my name, I freaked and came back here.”
“Oh… I see.” She glanced at the door and knew it was time to talk to the guy next to the car, “I’ll talk to him.  Stay here.”
“But my Mom…”
“Okay, come with me… I’ll get you past him. But if it turns out to be my Dad, I don’t want you breathing a word of this to anyone!  I mean it!  Your family works for the Government, they’ll be onto my Dad and I’ll never see him again!”
“You have my word.” She promised.
Taking a deep breath, she opened the door and looked out at man who looked very much like her Dad, but she wasn’t sure if he was.  He took a step towards her then stopped as she hesitated, “No way.”
“You see… he wants in here.”
She whispered, “Aurora, do you know who that is?”
“Your Dad?”
She gave her an incredulous look, “I was kidding!”
Without taking my eyes off the man, her kept my voice low, “Yeah? Well, I’m not.  Go home… but like I said…”
“Yeah, yeah, not a word.” She cut through the overgrown yard and dodged around the man who took a few steps towards her.
“Hey, you leave her alone.” Chloe called out.
He looked toward me, “But there’s a problem.”
“Come here.” Looking towards her friend’s retreating form with concern on his face, she wondered why he was so worried.  But he didn’t move, not until she had turned the corner, “She can’t be alone.”
“Say again?”
Taking in a shaking breath, he looked her in the eyes, “Chloe, she can’t be alone.  It will take her.”
He nodded, “Yep… what I’ve been working on… it’s been a huge thing, massive.  I haven’t been able to get it going, not until I realised it needed to be fed.”
“What did you do?”
“Can you let me in to explain?”
Turning, she opened the door of the building and he walked through.  Following him through to the laundry-lab, she wasn’t really paying attention to the man in front of her, only the thing off in the corner which had begun to shimmer and waver more.  It was then he grabbed her!
“You are so trusting!”
“You’re my Dad, what do you expect?”
A mocking grin crossed his face as a laugh bubbled from his mouth, “Me?  Nah, honey, I just look like your Dad.”
Glancing across the room at that wavering, weird-looking haze, she realised something.
It was horrible.
But Chloe knew with complete certainty that whoever this was standing in front of her was right: Aurora couldn’t be alone.
She had to get out of here – and soon!
“Now, sit down here, and I’ll attach these electrodes to your head.” He shoved her into an old dentist’s chair, strapped her arms down into the Velcro straps – as well as her legs and ankles – then a machine slotted around her cranium, holding her quite solidly in place, “Now, for the fun.”
“Fun?” she stammered, “This doesn’t look like fun.”
With a filthy, long nail, he leaned down and scratched at her temple, swiped her with some stinging, rubbing alcohol, then pushed an electrode onto her, “The first of many…” he started to chuckle as he picked up the next one to apply to her head, and began to scratch away at her scalp, “You shouldn’t have used conditioner on her hair last night, missy, it makes this harder to do… I just have to scratch harder at your head to make these contact better now.”
“Oh crap…”

Aurora was halfway home when she realised she had forgotten her house keys; and her folks weren’t home from work yet.  Sighing, she turned around and started walking back to Chloe’s place… then she got a really bad feeling, and started to run back. 

The closer she got to her friend’s house, the more panicked she felt!

She had to get back there before something bad happened to her friend; something irreversible.  

Chloe could feel her friend’s presence half a block away as he attached the fifth electrode to her head, then he paused, “Who are you thinking about?”
“Nobody.” She lied and hoped he believed her.
Yanking the chair around, he looked at her, “You’re lying to me.”
“I was thinking about how you got my Dad into this chair to do this to him.” She said, “And why he is over there hoping I get out of this.”
He swallowed slowly, “Well, like any great scientist, your Daddy-dearest did what they all did… experimented upon himself first.” The monstrosity leaned in close, whispering, “But the whole thing backfired on him and I took over… what fun.”
She didn’t break eye contact with this monster, “I hate you.  I’ll kill you.”
“Aahh, but if you kill me, you’ll kill Daddy.”
“I’m sure he’s willing to die for his experiment to be ended seeing all you want to do is feed.” She replied.

Aurora approached Chloe’s apartment building but found the place locked up tight.  She almost called the police; but she had promised not to report her friend’s Dad – not to anyone.  So, she went around the back to where there was a cellar door she hoped was unlocked.

Saturday, 14 February 2015

The Time Keeper - Part Two

Okay... here we go!  Part Two of the story-telling!  I have chosen Mark Gardner's work to continue on with.  Now, how I've done this is:  Mark's work is in purple, mine is in green... okay?  Okay... now, read on and enjoy. 

I sat in the booth pouring sugar into my coffee cup. The pawnshop across the street should’ve opened twenty minutes ago, but the open sign hung in the window dark. I reached into my pocket and felt it, knowing today could be the last time it touch the antique. I hated to part with such a treasure, but these were hard times.
A figure staggered down the sidewalk barely awake. The figure, not the sidewalk. A tendril of light smoke wafted from the cigarette pinched between his lips. Even from across the street, I could see the red cherry get brighter as he breathed. Orange-red brilliance, followed by a compounding of the tendril; twin exhausts rushed from his nostrils before lazily dying in the still morning. He staggered up to the door of the pawnshop, inserted a key and walked inside, the door hanging open at an unwelcome angle.
Although the neon sign welcoming patrons remained off, I signaled to my waiter, knowing what must be done.
“Anything else, miss?”
I cleared my throat, fearing he would charge me extra, but I suspect this part of my plan was integral. “Can I get a cup to go?” I asked sheepishly.
He smiled. “Sure thing,” he smiled, “let me get you one.” He paced the bill facedown on the table and walked away.
I placed the crumbled bank notes on the bill along with the rest of the change from my pocket. I knew the sad pile of currency covered my coffee and the hour I sat across the street from the pawnshop. I knew the tip wasn’t spectacular, but I now had no money to my name. This plan better work, I thought as I stood and met the cheery waiter with my steaming cup. I remember thinking how cheerful he was – I don’t trust people who’re that happy.
I murmured thanks for the cup and walked out the door. Perhaps if I’d known the magnitude of the events to follow, I’d’ve savored the moment. Perhaps said a few words to the universe to honor the occasion. I don’t know. Adventures such as this are rarely what they seem in the beginning.
* * *

“We’re not open yet.”
I removed my hand from the reinforced steel door. The bell that signaled my closing the door seemed comical – such a small sound, barely echoing in a cavernous room filled with trinkets and electronics.
I raised the still-steaming cup as a peace offering. “I’m in no hurry, but it looks as if you could use this.”
The aged man smiled and motioned me towards the counter with an excited wave. “I’ve been waiting for you,” he replied in a gravely voice. No doubt due to the cigarette habit.
I placed the cup on the glass counter as my brain processed what he said. “Waiting for me?” I stammered, fear rising.
He smiled, lines forming on his sun-damaged face. The greying whiskers seemed like a field of tree stumps after a recent logging expedition. “Not you, dear,” he said with desire, “but the coffee you bear.”
He seized the cup and drank greedily. Perhaps, I thought, perhaps his gravely voice isn’t from cigarettes. After a moment, his eyes rolled back into his head. I detected a slight shudder and the skin of of tree stumps transformed to a shade of red – making the grey contrast all the more against his skin. “That’s terrible,” he exhaled. “But, oh so welcome.” He set the cup on the counter. “What can I do for you this fine morning?”
I reached into my pocket and pulled out my last remaining possession. I laid the hunk of silver on the counter, next to the coffee cup. The man nodded, and the silver was lost in his large hand. He ran his thumb along the edge of the watch. “Timekeeper one-seven-two,” he whispered.
I knew I had him where I wanted him. At the time I was only interested in a handful of banknotes to get me through the week. In retrospect, it was he who had me… but, I’m getting ahead of myself.
He placed the silver down with a tenderness I mistook for a love of antiques. “I want to show you something,” he declared, and reached into his own pocket. He pulled out his own silver, dangling from a silver chain. He placed it next to mine and my eyes grew wide.
There sat an identical watch. His was shiny and well cared for. Mine was dented and tarnished. I could see his watch shiver slightly with the tick of the second hand, as mine lie there silent and sad. I began to think I had overvalued my piece, and my confidence wilt, but then my eyes were drawn to the final difference between our timekeepers: the number etched into the side.
“Ah,” he breathed coffee breath across the counter, “you see it.”
Where mine features a fading one-seven-two, his shiny etching proclaimed his to be more than a hundred newer. I reached out to feel the etching of his watch against my fingers, but a static discharge repelled my reach.
“Be careful there,” he whispered, “time is a fickle thing.”
I felt compelled to respond. The words didn’t seem to be my own. When I tried to hold them back, my head began to ache. “But,” I blurted, “it forever heeds its will to the timekeeper.”
The man nodded and withdrew a steel box. He unlocked it with a key and withdrew several banknotes. He laid five of them on the counter. “You have a decision to make,” he declared.
I reached towards the counter, confident of the payday the currency represented, but my hand seemed drawn towards my timekeeper of its own volition.
“Be certain,” he said, “adventure awaits with either decision.”
I closed my eyes and made my decision. A decision I know now was predestined. A decision at sometimes I regret, but mostly, I cherish. A decision that resulted in sudden life.

Before I opened my eyes, I caught a whiff of flowers, of the sharp sea air… of… home.  They snapped open and I found myself standing outside my father’s bakery in the seaside town I had been born in.

Exactly how did I come to be here?

The place looked as though it had come from a dream I had just after my father died.  It had that hazy appearance of ghosts gone in another life, in another time where I couldn’t possible have … then I saw him, my father, serving Mrs. Wilson from down the road.  She was a lovely old dear who died just weeks before my father did.  So, this must have been a dream!
The wind died down for a moment and I could hear a ticking sound.  It was gentle and I almost missed it, until I looked down and found that my left hand was closed over something and I was holding it against my stomach.  On opening it, I found the time piece all fixed up, prettily ticking away and looking as though it was brand new.  I gawped at it for a good minute as the second hand went around and made the hour hand moved very slowly towards the twelve.

It was almost 4pm.

I smiled.  Then, I refocused my eyes on the tiny face of the time piece and realised I may have moved back in time, but physically, I had stayed exactly the same. 
Looking up, I stared back at the bakery again.  If I were to go inside there, I’d be a stranger to the man serving at the counter.  Just as I was beginning to wonder what I was doing here in the time of my teenaged years, my stomached grumbled loudly that it was time for food.  Looking both ways, I crossed the empty street, ducking under the awning just as the first drops of rain began to fall and thunder drummed around the surrounding mountains.
Pushing the door open of the store, I heard the bell ring to announce me.  The man looked up and smiled as I approached the counter.  I never saw this side of my father – ever. This was the side everyone else saw.  I saw the strict, disciplinarian who would make me eat all my vegetables, forced me to study over my weekends while it was sunny outside and kept me from the best parties over the bay in Bestian’s Bay County.  Kids at my high school thought I was either stupid or very boring; but it was my father who kept me from having a cool social life.  I wondered just how he kept these two personalities in check the whole time… I mean, was this man really my father?  Or was all the controlling just for show?
Then, a woman walked in from out the back with a long apron on, a woman I knew well.  She worked here and I knew she did wonders for this bakery because she had come from France.  It was Celine… a brilliant pastry chef who could turn any bag of flour into the most delicious-tasting bread, lightest sponge cakes, sweetest cookies… yes, it was her.  She had her dark curls up in a hair net, but it was her.  She walked in humming a tune as she carried a tray of freshly baked, sliced and wrapped bread out and shimmied them into the trays behind the counter. 
My father walked up to her grinning, “How many more to go?”
“This is it for today, then, I have the cake for Mr. Jones to finish icing.” She replied, sounding like a backwards playing record to my ears, but perfectly fine to him.
“Good, good.” He patted her well-curved behind, kissed her on the back of the neck, and moved past her a little too close to get to the counter I was standing in front of.  It took all of my strength not to say anything to him as he turned and smiled, “Yes?  How can I help you today?”
“Um… do you have more pies left please?” I looked over at the warmer and found it was half-full.
“We have chicken, steak and kidney, steak and mushroom and vegetarian.” He said, “The last are new for the weird people who don’t like meat.” Yep, it was my father alright.
Walking to the warmer, I looked in on the pies.  They were fresh, delicious and wonderful, and I knew it, “The steak and mushroom, please.”
“Want peas with that?” he asked grabbing a plate off the shelf, “And you better eat here, just look at that rain out there.”
I turned and looked as the rain overflowed the gutters and swelled in the streets, “Wow… it’s really coming down.”
“Here ya go.” He smiled, “That’ll be $3.50.”
I pulled out my purse and pulled out a $5.00 and handed it over, got my change and walked to a nearby table.  As I sat down, with my meal, I noticed he went out the back of the bakery, where the sounds of work suddenly turned very quiet.   I tried to ignore the fact I was the only person sitting in the place eating and watched the time tick slowly by, wishing I knew what was going on, but the more I wanted to spy on the two out the back, less I wanted to know… was he kissing her?  Was he having sex with her?  Was he…? I dug my fork into the steaming hot pie.

It wasn’t my business.

The door opened quickly and a woman walked in, slamming it against the wind.  Shaking her umbrella, she dumped it in the holder, didn’t remove her jacket and let herself behind the counter.  Allowing herself out the back, I then heard what I suspected:
“How dare you!  With that French slut!  How could you?” she raced back out again.

I tried to look anywhere but where the noise came from, but failed.  Instead, I stood, leaving my meal behind and went outside and wished I had never come here.  The dampness of the wind refreshed me and chilled me at the same time as I pulled the pocket watch out of my pocket, held it close and closed my eyes, wishing I was anywhere else but here…

Saturday, 7 February 2015

The Dare

Okay, this is going to be fun!  Over the next 4 weeks, we (the people on Chuck Wendig's blog and me) are going to write a 4-part story.  This is the first installment... how fun, how cool, how ... very interesting.  I'll try and keep up the other installments of 'The Dare' if I can find them along the way. 


As I stand here on the very edge of the top of the fifty-second floors of ‘The Glory Hotel’, I wonder exactly how it came to be that I said yes to such a dumb idea.

Oh, yeah, that’s right… I said that it was not just David Copperfield who could fly, anyone could.

Was I drunk when I said that?  I sure hope I was, because I really hate heights; and the last thing I need is to test my humanity right now.  Turning from my perch, I look back at my stupid friends who are pushing me, throwing rubbish from the roof at me and are screaming at me to ‘do it!’ that I was a wimp if I didn’t.

Was I a wimp?


I mean I was human, but not really… you see I was born here on Earth, but I did turn out to have a few extras built into my DNA that the normal Human Being just didn’t have.

Like what?  Um… I can bench press 350kg cold.  I really can!  And yet I’m built like a weed.  I don’t look like it, but I can sucker-punch anyone into the middle of next week too.  But I’d never do it; I’m just not brought up that way – and nobody is going to force me to do that.
Other ‘skills’ I’ve been able to do is have a toughened skeletal structure… and skin that heals very quickly; and I don’t mean in 3 days, I mean as I watch it in about a minute.  This is another reason why I don’t get into fights with anyone… it would just freak the shit outa them!

And until recently – like my 18th Birthday – I found out I not only levitate, but fly short distances.  Well, I told my best friend, and I found out what a big blabbermouth they turned out to be.

Yeah, who needs enemies when you have friends like that, right?

Well, this leads me to standing here on the ledge of the building where … oh shit on a pancake… there’s the cops all the way down there!
Turning, I glare at my ‘friends’ , “Well, jeez, Amelia, thanks.”
She meets my glare as she stalks up to me in her outfit which makes her look like a street-walker, “What?”
“Who called the cops?”
She looks over the edge, smirking, then stifles a laugh, “Oh, shit, I didn’t think they’d believe me!”
I step back from the ledge, “What!”
This is when things got deadly, and Amelia pulls a 32 out of her handbag, “Oh, no you don’t.  You are going to fly… you told me you could.”
“I told you it was a secret.”
“And you expected me to sit on that shit for how long?” she smiles, “Especially after you showed me… you’re a fuckin’ mutant, and you’re going to show everyone.”
“Shoot me first.” I say, “I’d rather be dead than be a joke.”
“Fly!” she screams stepping closer, just within reach.
“Make me!” I shout back.
Sitting on the ledge, she grimaces, “Don’t you make me…”
As soon as she looks away, I grab her wrist, yanking her to her feet, watching the gun fall away down below us, “Good, now you’re unarmed, we can get to business.”
Tears blur her vision as she struggles to get away from me, screaming into the night air, “Oh my god!  Let me go!  She’s going to throw me off the building!”
I held her close against me whispering, “Throw you?  Nah, that’s too good for you… to watch you fall, watch your body splatter onto the ground for what you’ve done to me.  Instead, sweetheart, my friend, dear… chump… I’m going to teach you a lesson about exactly what I am…”  with that, I take a deep breath and jump off the edge of the building, taking flight into the night air with Amelia screaming the whole time as she clings to me.

But, I have a plan… 

The Dare - Part Two

The Dare - Part Three