This story was first published in May 2005 in Apollo’s Lyre Magazine.
“What the hell happened to the house?” Joe yelled.
Shaking badly, Marge said, “A big, purple thing fell from the sky and hit it while I was making a tuna casserole. It made a big bang. The whole house shook. Scared me to death.”
“Why didn’t you call 911?”
“The phone’s dead.”
Looking toward the back yard, Joe said, “I don’t’ see anything.”
“That because it bounced off the roof, hit the ground, and fell into the ravine out back.
“Did you say it was purple?”
“Yeah. Looks like a big, purple gumdrop.”
Joe grabbed a shotgun.
“Be careful,” Marge said. “It might be a weapon of mass destruction. My mother would get mad if I got nuked.”
“Nobody’s gonna drop bombs in the middle of nowhere. They’ll do it in the city. That’s why we moved outta there.”
“I wish we’d never left,” she said. “I told you something bad would happen if we moved out of my mom’s house to live in the mountains. Even my mom warned you, and she’s always right. We must have told you ten-thousand times.”
“Stop nagging,” Joe yelled. “Since we moved, you’ve almost busted my eardrums with your constant belly aching. Oh, what’s the use! Wait here, while I check the back.”
Once outside, Joe noticed purple, walnut-sized orbs scattered around the yard. They were warm and sticky. Smelling one, he could have sworn it was made of sugar. A quick taste proved him right. What kind of thing falls out of the sky and drops sugar balls on my property?
Looking over the edge of the ravine, he saw a purple, gumdrop-shaped object, about two stories high. It was loaded with sugar balls.
Climbing down the ravine to inspect the object, Joe heard a hiss. He watched in fascination as a door opened. He nearly freaked when a four-legged, three-armed alien stepped out. Pointing the shotgun with shaking hands, Joe yelled, “Get-em-up.”
The alien fell to the ground, lay on his back, and pushed his legs upward.
“Raise your hands, not your legs.”
“Oh, I didn’t know you did it that way here. I guess I’m not on Mars.”
“Far from it. Move away from your…uh…purple gumdrop.”
“It’s not a gumdrop. It’s a potato chip.”
Joe wasn’t up to arguing semantics. Especially with such a nerdy looking alien. Joe noticed a pen-filled, ink-stained shirt pocket, four pants bottoms that barely brushed the tops of white anklets, and eye glasses held together by duct tape.
“Where exactly am I?” the nerd asked.
“You sure? I didn’t know Earth was populated. I was trying to reach your moon. We’re having a contest in my engineering class. Each student built a spacecraft, and launched it using massive rubber bands. Whoever goes farthest, wins. Look, I need to get back. I have final exams in two days.
“You ain’t gong nowhere until you pay to fix my house.”
“It does look pretty bad. Will a check for 10,000 MPUs do it?”
“What the hell is MPUs?” Joe yelled.
“Martian pecuniary units.”
“I want greenbacks, Pal.”
“I don’t know what greenbacks are. If we’d known beings were here, we could’ve set up diplomatic contacts, mail service, interplanetary money exchanges. Look, I just want to get back home. I have a back up engine for lift-offs. But I need some Mercury to generate enough power. My mercury cell smashed when I hit your house.”
“I’ll call the space agency,” Joe said. “They can handle your problem.”
A quick call to NASA got Joe nowhere.
“It’s a government holiday,” the operator said. “Nobody’s here. Did you say he was a Martian?”
“Yes. With four legs, three arms, and two noses.”
“I’ll switch you to the Area 51 operator. I know they’ll send somebody over real fast. They haven’t done an alien autopsy since Roswell. I know they’re itching to do another. I’m ringing them now.”
Joe slammed the phone down. Right away they wanna use scalpels. I don’t wanna see this poor slob getting chopped to pieces on an autopsy table.
“You gotta get outta here,” Joe said. “Unless you wanna be turned into pet food. What do you need to make your engine work?”
“I have a thermometer with a some mercury inside,” Joe said.
“That’s not enough.”
Joe thought about the ton of canned tuna his wife kept on hand to make her daily tuna surprises. He ran to the house, and returned with two big plastic bags filled to the brim.
“Use this for your engine,” Joe said. “Tuna fish. They say it’s loaded with mercury.”
Joe’s two hands, plus the alien’s six, quickly opened the cans. The alien ran inside the purple potato chip and dumped three cans into the engine. The engine sputtered and belched black smoke. When all the cans were poured in, the engine purred.
Joe was a glad he’d thought of the tuna. Especially when he heard helicopters in the distance.
“Hey, you better get outta here fast. Otherwise, you’re gonna miss your exams, permanently.”
“Help me gather the purple balls,” the alien said. “They’re heat tiles. I gotta put them back onto my purple potato chip, before I can take off.”
While helping to stick sugar balls back onto the craft’s exterior, Joe asked, “What are Martian woman like?”
“They’re a worthless lot. They hand-feed us, bathe us, brush our hair, do our nails. Their homemade gourmet cooking and pastries are ridiculously fancy. They offer pleasure every hour, any way we want.”
“Sounds awful,” Joe said, smiling. “Do you have mothers-in-law?”
“Nothing worth mentioning. Hey, can I go to Mars with you?”
“Great idea. You can prove that I made it all the way to Earth.”
Joe jumped aboard the purple potato chip. Marge ran outside when she heard the engine’s roar.
During lift off, Joe waved goodbye to Marge and tried to bean her with empty tuna cans.
Michael A. Kechula’s flash and micro-fiction tales have been published by 150 magazines and 50 anthologies in 8 countries. He’s won 1st prize in 12 writing contests and 2nd prize in 8 others. He’s authored 5 books of flash and micro-fiction tales, including a book that teaches how to write flash fiction. See his publisher’s site at: http://www.booksforabuck.com/ to read a free story or chapter in all of his books.
This story was previously printed in 2008 in Alien Skin Magazine.
A government reconnaissance craft prepared to depart for Earth. I had a free round-trip ticket, because I’d agreed to do a job for the Ministry of Abductions. They wanted me to locate and tag for immediate extraction an elusive kind of Earthonian—a blue-topped female. Tagging meant inserting a vibro-gonzer into the hole already existent in the female’s ear, the part from which decorations dangled. If she had no piercings, my job was to create one using my left index claw. When I asked why that particular claw, considering I had twenty-eight of them, they spewed formulas about optimum angles of penetration.
I’d never pierced a Martian’s ear, much less an Earthonian’s, so I was a bit edgy. Especially since I tend to favor the claws on my fourth hand. Fortunately, the Flight Officer supplied materials on which I could practice during the five-hour trip.
Using abducted Venusian vermin hides, I tore several dozen holes, after which I inserted vibro-gonzers. The crew said the skins were roughly equivalent to the size, shape, and texture of Earthonian female ears.
Surprisingly, each time I inserted a vibro-gonzer, my gloper glands became pleasantly stimulated. I hoped with all my hearts that the target female’s ear was free of piercings. Maybe when penetrating her ear, my glopers might break out into song as they’d just done. I could hardly wait for the craft to land.
Deck hands asked why I was aboard. I explained my intention to study Earth’s polar icecaps, and the tagging task I’d agreed to perform in exchange for free transport.
“Good luck,” someone said. “Better you than us.”
“What do you mean?”
“It’s New Year’s Eve on Earth. The entire planet goes nuts. You couldn’t pay us enough to leave this disk. Back in ’04, Glixi did. Look at him now.”
My stomach curdled. One of his heads was missing. The other was covered with hideous scars.
“What happens on New Years Eve?” I asked.
Glixi described a bizarre, Earthonian ritual. “They dance, eat certain foods, drink mind-altering liquids, and work themselves into a frenzy that builds into a spectacular climax at the arrival of what they call, ‘midnight.’”
I repeated the strange word in my mind.
“When given a signal that midnight has arrived, they explode with shouts, use implements to make weird noises, share an effervescent liquid, and intermingle, in ways that remind me of ancient, Martian revelry. They chant a slogan, and sing a traditional song. Within minutes of the climax, the celebrants are dissipated and often go into a stupor.”
“Sounds goofy,” I said.
“Even nuttier, they repeat this on the same date an Earth-year later.”
“If I go among them tonight, do you think I’ll find a female with blue topping?”
“Never saw a blue one,” Glixi said. “But watch out for those with red toppings. That’s how I lost my other head. I ran into one with fuzzy red topping. Stroked it out of curiosity. She went bonkers. I ended up hospitalized for three solar rotations.”
The craft hovered over a building. “If you’re gonna find a blue one,” said the Captain,” this is probably the best place to start. We’ll be back in thirty ticks. Meanwhile, if something goes wrong and you need emergency retrieval, just yell ‘gazangas.’”
I jumped out, and searched the building for revelers.
Just as I walked into a large darkened room, somebody shouted, “Happy New Year.”
Earthonian males grabbed my hands and pumped them violently. Females kissed me. Luckily, a blue-topped woman pressed herself against me, and stroked my gills. I checked her ear. No holes. I dug into it with my index claw and inserted a vibro-gonzer. The sensation was so remarkably pleasant, my glopers vibrated, then broke out into a sweet Martian lullaby.
The lights turned up. The female screamed. Next thing I knew, males overwhelmed me.
“I’ve seen this kind before,” a red-topped female yelled. “Five years ago. Took one of his damn heads off. Had it stuffed. Hangs over my fireplace.”
She moved toward me.
A male pushed her aside. “I’m a cop,” he yelled. Pointing to me he hollered, “You’re under arrest, for…for…”
“Clawing a hole in my ear lobe,” said the female, “and jamming something through.”
“You have the right to remain silent,” he said, cuffing two of my wrists.
Fortunately, the other two were still free. I shoved him, grabbed the blue-topped female, and headed for the roof yelling, “GAZANGAS!”
Having only two legs, my pursuers couldn’t keep up.
The craft lowered, and the crew pulled us aboard.
“Where are you taking me, you buncha ugly bastards?” yelled the female.
“Mars,” the Flight Officer said. He stuck something into her arm causing her to collapse.
“There’s a problem,” the Captain said. “We’re only authorized to reconnoiter, not to transport abductees. I must return the Earthonian.”
“Can we keep her aboard for a while?” I asked.
“I thought I’d entertain the crew with lullabies.”
“Hmm. Go ahead. I haven’t heard a good tune in a while,” said the Captain.
Removing the vibro-gonzer from her ear, I sealed the hole, then dug a new one. My gloper glands vibrated and emitted a sweet melody. The applause was tremendous. I repeated the process a dozen times until we located a transport authorized to carry abducted Earthonians.
A year later, I spotted her in a bar. Though horribly disfigured from exploratory surgeries, her ear lobe was intact. I persuaded her to let me use it to entertain the customers.
We made a bundle in tips. That convinced us to form a musical act.
Now we make a good living performing for entertainment-starved canal diggers in the Martian Wetlands.
Michael A. Kechula’s flash and micro-fiction tales have been published by 150 magazines and 50 anthologies in 8 countries. He’s won 1st prize in 12 writing contests and 2nd prize in 8 others. He’s authored 5 books of flash and micro-fiction tales, including a book that teaches how to write flash fiction. See his publisher’s site at: http://www.booksforabuck.com/ to read a free story or chapter in all of his books.
The entrance door slammed, echoing down the long hall of mirrors in Death’s Funhouse. Running away from the packed crowd, fear gripped me. Strobe lights flashed psychedelic colors. Wildly, they splashed across the backdrop of the distorted reflections of the troupe of clowns slashing my friends’ throats.
Looking around the funhouse at the other college-aged girls, frozen in place and screaming, I vowed not be that girl. Hearing more shouts behind me, I shoved myself through the horde of onlookers that had turned to watch the macabre scene play out around us in twisted images.
The sweet scent of cotton candy filled the funhouse. I shuddered, wondering if it was a ruse to form a false sense of security. Glancing to my left, I watched two clowns take out the head cheerleader at our college. My stomach churned as a spurt of red splattered across the mirror. Its liquid streaked down in jagged lines.
Sticky beads of sweat oozed down my back. Its sickening feel, drove me harder to escape. Frantically, I searched for the exit. No reprieve was to be found. Heaving, I forced myself forward.
In the screams bouncing around the tight corridors, I heard my best friend. Turning, a loud groan escaped me. A tall clown, with a blinking red nose, held a knife to her throat. I wanted to run back, but I knew death had tagged her. She had lost.
Ten feet away from me, an exit sign blazed victory, but six clowns stood ready. I stopped. My heart raced, pounding in fear. Sensing safety in numbers, I waited for others to join me. The clowns stared back.
“Little girl, come here, little girl,” the largest clown teased, his deep smoker’s voice rasped. He threw his head back in laughter. Then his cold eyes danced, locking onto mine. Opening his arms wide, he dared me to try and escape.
A group of ten frat boys darted past me. I squatted, duck walking. Hidden below the dancing strobe lights, I held my breath for fear of being detected. Beneath the cover of darkness, I pushed forward as player after player were eliminated.
Inches away from the door, I felt my hair yanked. My head stretched back, exposing the tender crook of my neck. The large, glaring clown had captured me. His breath stank of garlic as he whispered in my ear. “No one escapes, Death’s Funhouse.”
In horror, I watched his hand rise above my throat.
Instantly, I dropped flat to the floor, breaking free. I rolled the last few feet, ignoring the grit and grime, digging into me. Jumping up, I slammed against the steel door as its hinges moaned, releasing me to emerge victorious into the daylight.
“Ladies and gentlemen, it looks like we have a winner.” The old carnival barker hollered, looking me up and down, searching in vain for fake blood.
I collapsed, gasping. My stomach knotted, threatening to heave up my funnel cake. Yet, I grinned. In five seasons of operation, I was the small town’s first winner.
The barker sulked over and hurled a $100 bill at me. I stared at my sweet reward for making it through Death’s Funhouse without getting my throat slashed by a fake blood squirting knife.
Whooping in triumph, all my friends gathered around me. “Come on, Bloody Mary’s on me,” I shouted. A fitting end to celebrate a bloody profitable night.
BIO: I have been published in various venues such as Free Flash Fiction, The Old Red Kimono, Danse Macabre, Infernal Ink, and Black Petals. Also, for two years, I was editor of The Old Red Kimono, an award-winning literary magazine. For the last six years, I have run a Romance Enhancement Party Business…aka..toy parties sorta like Tupperware, but with batteries.
Brad and Lynn set up the miniature circus tent in the center of the living room. A blue flag topped the red and yellow striped canvas cylinder. Scallops and dags dripped in cheer, adding to the festive feel.
Adam clapped his chubby hands as he jumped and laughed. “I wuv it, Momma! Fank you, Daddy!”
Proud parents grabbed hands in a silent congratulations. The gift pleased their three-year-old son. Adam climbed through the door, blue to distinguish it from the rest of the tent, and vanished from site.
The interior was large enough for Adam to stand. If he reached up, he could not touch the spire. The light filtered through the material cast zebra stripes of gold and gray. His parents knelt at the entrance, enjoying Adam’s delight. He took his peanut butter and marshmallow whip sandwich inside, chatting to imagined companions.
“I swear, I smell roasted peanuts,” Brad said.
His wife pointed out the sandwich, raising her eyebrows at him. As she walked to the kitchen to tidy up the lunch dishes, he patted her rump. She giggled. However, he distinctly caught a whiff of fresh-spun cotton candy.
“Yippee!” Adam’s voice accompanied a thudding sound from inside. “I wuv horsies!”
Dad turned on the local afternoon news on the television, ignoring his son’s boisterous exclamations. An herbal scent, almost like alfalfa hay, drifted through. His wife must have lit a candle.
A phrase uttered by his son registered on his distracted parental consciousness. “Uh oh, she is naked.”
His boy was backing out of the tent, eyes covered with sticky hands, his tongue sticking out in a “yuck.”
“Son, what are you doing?”
“I don’t want to see the naked lady, dad. I am going to go to the baff room.”
The boy rushed down the hall to relieve himself. Under his arm was tucked a small clown stuffed doll that Brad didn’t remember.
Naked lady? His son possessed an active imagination, certainly. Still, Brad bent and pushed aside the blue door to looked inside of the tent.
On the canvas floor rested the plastic super hero plate, mostly-eaten sandwich and corn chip crumbs atop. He collected the lunch left overs and straightened, feeling the gentle caress of the canvas against his cheek as he stood. A whiff of jasmine and sandlewood made him think of belly dancers. He closed his eyes, picturing a bonfire around which swayed tanned hips barely clothed in silks and tinkling bells.
“Daddy, you are in my way!” He snapped out of his reverie, stepping aside to allow his son access to the tent’s interior.
“Did you light a fire, darling?” His wife inquired, taking the plate and kissing his flushed cheek.
“No, I thought you did.” She looked over her shoulder, head cocked to one side, but said nothing.
“I want an elephant ride!” His son voiced with enthusiasm from within his new play area.
Dad shook his head and reclaimed the comfortable position in his brown leather recliner, taking in the news. It was not long, though, before he dozed and dreamed of feather and sequence-clad beauties whipping lions until they obeyed each command. He woke aroused, hearing his wife and son playing a game. He looked at the tent and saw his wife’s pale legs sticking out of the entrance.
With a mischievous smile, Brad stepped over and ran his foot up the fleshy curves to the base of her pink shorts.
“Ahem, I will be right back, Adam.”
Her face appeared between the tent flaps. “May I help you?”
Smile crooked across his face, he leered, wagging his finger to entice her to follow.
She sighed, disappeared once more to kiss her son loudly (“ah, mom!”), then emerged to grab her husband’s hand. He guided her to their bedroom, then lavished kisses on her eager mouth and delicate neck. She gasped and responded, met kiss with passion, until they collapsed, spent and tangled in sheets no longer neatly upon their queen-sized bed.
She deposited little kisses like pops on her husband’s cheeks and forehead while he admired the pert bosom jiggling beneath her white cotton t-shirt.
“Lynn, we haven’t taken Adam to a circus. How do you suppose he knows so much about them?”
She stopped to consider. “I don’t know. What do you mean?”
“Well, he was talking about tigers and trained puppies and tightrope walkers. How does he even know the word trapeze?”
She laughed, shaking her head. “Adam is such a clever child!” However, her brow knitted.
A voice interrupted the short silence that followed. “Momma, Daddy? Watch what I can do!”
Dad wondered how long Adam stood in the bedroom doorway, but more startling were the three kitchen knives in his hands.
“I can juggle. The cwown told me I can.”
Mom reacted first, her voice quaking with concern. “Honey, you know that you are not allowed to touch knives.”
“I know, but watch. I am a circus p-former!”
The child threw the utensils into the air. Garnet splattered the white sheets and tan carpet as he attempted to catch the blades. Mom sat up and screamed. Dad lay frozen, propped on his elbows.
BIO: Kerry E.B. Black enjoys spinning story webs like a spider, waiting for prey. Other published works can be found in “Shades of Fear” and “Postcard Poems and Prose.” Follow at twitter BlackKerryBlick and http://kerrylizblack.wordpress.com/
This story was first published in Innsmouth FreePress 2009.
Baby Rhyme Time.
Youngsters Enjoy Initiation at Innsmouth Public Library.
Thirty babies and toddlers, ranging from the age of two weeks (well done, Mrs Beatrice Draggers) to two years, attended the first Baby Rhyme Time at the Innsmouth Public Library this week.
Miss Marberly Phillipson, Head of Juvenile Development Services, said, “I am delighted to see so many little ones here today. One simply cannot introduce a child early enough to the magic of the written word.”
The youngsters enjoyed some traditional rhythms and were introduced to a few songs that are unique to our own Innsmouth region.
“It is amazing what children of this age can understand.” continued Miss Phillipson.“Some of the youngsters appeared to have an almost instinctive grasp of our traditional songs.”
The youngsters enjoyed several stories read by Miss Phillipson including That’s Not My Dhole and the perennial picture-book favourite The Very, Very Sleepy Octopus. As a special treat Miss Phillipson had adapted some of the Innsmouth’s most treasured books to suit the tastes of the children.
“We have a wonderful heritage here in Innsmouth,” continued Miss Phillipson. “It is our duty to pass it on to the little ones. I have adapted some of our special books to suit a child’s understanding. But it is important to retain the integrity of the original. I believe it is a mistake, a serious mistake, to allow the message of our texts to be weakened. Children, especially the children of Innsmouth understand more than many outsiders might imagine. Children love books, and while I’m not advocating we allow youngsters direct access to our esoteric sections, I believe that the messages we instil at an early age will a lasting effect on our future – on all our futures.”
Mrs Alison Transents, mother of Archibald (age 18 months) couldn’t agree more, “When Miss Phillipson brought out her special story book, I had to hold little Archie back. It’s as if he recognized some of the characters in the story. He particularly enjoyed the illustrations.”
Miss Phillipson is a strong advocate of early learning. “It is my aim to get every child into the public library. I was amazed when I saw some of the children, who could barely speak, grasping the harmonics of some of our more complex chants. With simple repetition and constant reinforcement in the home, there is no doubt that these children will be adept in our traditions by school age.”
Perhaps surprising, one of the most popular songs was spoken in a traditional language. Some parents may find some the following extract challenging!
“Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn.’
Miss Phillipson, who is something of an adept herself in these matters, will be glad to assist parents in mastering the correct pronunciation of this rhyme (interested readers may like to attend Miss Phillipson’s Manuscript Sessions – An Easy and Fun Introduction to the Ancient held every on alternate Thursday evenings at the library).
“Of course, parents might prefer my English translation,” laughed Miss Phillipson. “It is not a literal translation, but I believe it captures the essence of the original.”
Miss Phillipson has kindly allowed us to reproduce her translation for use in the home environment.Peek-a-boo, Ancient One Great Old One of the sea. In R’yleh Deep and silent. Awaken me. Awaken me. Awaken me. Hiding still. Peek-a-boo! You see me. You see me. You see me.
Mr Barnabas Wright, Director of Innsmouth’s Leisure Services, attended the first Baby Rhyme Time. He fully supports the library’s initiative, “I believe we are reviving some of Innsmouth’s most ancient traditions. These fragments of text have been passed down to us through the ages. It is gratifying to think of countless generations of mothers singing these same words to their children. These chants have a timeless appeal. That is why they have survived – and will always live on.”
Mrs Vernonic Nahastra mother of Mirabelle (8 months) certainly agrees, “I would never have thought to bring Mirabelle to the library at such an early age. But you should have seen her little face light up when she heard the rhymes. It was almost as if she understood every word. I shall be definitely including Miss Phillipson’s chants in our bedtime routine.”
“We have some very exceptional history here at Innsmouth,” commented Miss Phillipson. “Knowledge can be instilled in even the youngest child. It is my duty and my privilege to pass on our special legacy to these innocents.”
And to judge by the cries of delight when Miss Phillipson led the special chanting, I think the youngsters of Innsmouth are very pleased about that!
Deborah Walker grew up in the most English town in the country, but she soon high-tailed it down to London, where she now lives with her partner, Chris, and her two young children. Find Deborah in the British Museum trawling the past for future inspiration or on her blog: http://deborahwalkersbibliography.blogspot.com/ Her stories have appeared in Nature’s Futures, Cosmos and Daily Science Fiction and The Year’s Best SF 18.
He watched the people crowd St. Mark’s Square—the locals, the wandering musicians, and the tourists. He knew them all, had observed them for over three centuries. Seldom did any of them take the time to notice him, though, perched on the highest pinnacle, teetering at the very edge of the red-tiled roof of the cathedral.
His curiosity intense, he often contemplated what would happen if he could release his angel-like wings mounted at his stoned sides? What if he were to come burrowing from his mount, with his sharp horned head? What if his boned claws at the ends of his thin arms were to. . . ?
Only a dream over the years as he basked in the sun-drenched skies or felt the needled pinpricks of rain pierce his naked body.
When Father Mario ordered the cleaning and polishing of the copper dome of the cathedral, a man by the name of Giopillato took notice of the ornate sculptures, the intricate paintings, and, of course, the artistry of the numerous gargoyles atop the roof. An amateur photographer, he pulled his camera out of his back pocket. He angled his lens to get side views, back views, snapping shots of each of the gargoyles. Then, he got out his chisel and got to work scraping and picking the grime from the gargoyle at the very peak of the cathedral.
That’s when the horn-headed gargoyle heard a chipping from near his base. He felt a slight breeze on his back, a warm breath on his neck, a pair of large, sweaty palms shove hard on his shoulders. His carved wings released from his sides, the point of his horn plummeted downward. The crowds in the square pointed upward at him, screaming. The locals deserted their lunches on the wrought-iron tables and ran for cover. The wandering musicians threw their clarinets, piccolos, and violins onto the sidewalk, sounds of banging and crashing like an orchestra tuning up for a performance. The tourists dropped their parcels of souvenirs, in their haste to seek shelter.
And there at the base of the Doric column in the square, a shadow cast, much like that of an eagle but with a much wider wing spin. A small boy ran out from one of the shops to the gargoyle’s side. He picked up the broken granite horn and attempted to restore it to the top of the gargoyle’s head. The young child let some of the coral sand sift through his fingers onto the monster’s cracked wing. The boy shielded his eyes from the sun and peered upward at the pinnacle of the cathedral. “Look Mommy.”
The boy’s mother came out from hiding and stood in the shadow with her son. She, too, looked toward the cathedral’s roof. “Come along, son. One of those ugly monsters up there,” she said, as she pointed to the other gargoyles, “must have fallen. I can see part of its tail. Good thing no one was crushed by its weight. God forbid.”
“But Mom, listen. . . .”
“Come along now, I said. Don’t be foolish.” She shoved her son across the square.
There in the blackened shadows next to the gargoyle’s elf-eared head, a scratchy voice came from its opened mouth. “Sometimes things are better left as they are,” it said, as a trickle of blood ran unnoticed across St. Mark’s Square.
Delphine expresses her love of writing in the words of John Steinbeck, “I nearly always write just as I nearly always breathe.” Delphine has had numerous short stories published, several in anthologies. Her latest can be found in the anthology Ugly Babies 2. When not writing, she teaches English. More info can be found on her website: delphineboswell.com.
This story was first published in Lovecraft E-Zine 2011.
I stood in front of the temple entrance. It was unlike any building I’d ever seen. Instead of straight lines, the facade was cascade of spirals carved out of the face of the mountain, in pale rose stone. The entrance was a dark and open mouth, cool and inviting.
“This is ancient Cas-hal-Min,” said Jemplim. “Quite deserted for thousands of years.”
“It’s so very beautiful,” I replied. The temple was decorated with the statues of women. In Europe we called them the stone mothers, women with fertile-ripe bodies, breasts and stomachs and thighs. Instead of faces, these desert statues had ropes of carved vines, or, perhaps, featureless snakes. I pointed to the statues flanking the temple’s entrance. “You call them the Mi-Zar, the ancient mothers, don’t you?”
Jemplim frowned at my in-elegant use of his dialect, and I smiled. After all these months, he had not gotten used to the sound of accent. Jemplim spoke beautifully cultured English. It pained him to hear me mangle his native tongue. But out of politeness he allowed me to practice the language. English seemed out of place here, it felt too modern. It was better to speak the old language of the desert.
I heard music, dream-like, evocative and familiar.
“Elizabeth do you hear that?” asked Jemplim. “The wind brings music.”
I heard the music, in the far distance, as sound carried on the desert wind, a mirage of sound reflected over the sand.
“We should be going now,” said Jemplim. He touched my arm, gently and gestured to the jeep.
Jemplim was native to this land. I’d hired him six months ago to be my guide. Over the course of our search, we’d become close. Close enough, almost, to forget why I’d come here. I regretted what I had to do. Jemplim was a good man. I was going to hurt him. “No, Jemplim,” I said quietly. “I’m going inside the temple.”
“You can’t,” he said. A look of panic flooded his face. “You gave me your word.”
“I’m sorry, but did you really think I’d come this far and no further?”
“No,” he said. “I wouldn’t allow it, Elizabeth.”
I’d promised that once we set foot in the courtyard, I wouldn’t attempt to enter the temple. Taboo he told me; sealed over with curses; it would be disrespectful to the dead to set foot in such a place; the temple was old and decayed and it would be dangerous to step inside. He’d given me many reasons why I shouldn’t enter the temple–but not the true one.
I took a couple of steps towards the temple entrance. When he grabbed my arm, it surprised me. He was such a gentle man. I’d never seen him raise his hand, against any creature.
“I’m begging you, Elizabeth. You don’t know what you’re doing.”
“Jemplim, I do know, and if you try and stop me, you know what will happen.” Already the heat shimmered in front of the stone Mi-Zar guardians. They trembled.
“This temple is the resting place of something old, something that should remain alone.”
The wind floated through the courtyard, bright-scented with the smell of desert musk.
“I know that, Jemplim.”
“You know? You lied to me?”
I nodded. “I know what’s in the temple. She waits for me.”
“Do you think that the old one will give you your child back, and that you will be happy, again? Elizabeth, she is not what you think.”
“I didn’t know that you knew, about my children,” I said. I thought that I’d been so clever, so discreet.
“It seems that we have both been withholding the truth. Elizabeth,” said Jemplim. “When a woman seeks this city, it is the first thing that we think of. We made enquiries. I know that you lost your children. But I’d hoped that your story was true. I convinced myself that you were looking only for knowledge, not for the gifts of the mother.”
“Why did you bring me here, Jemplim?”
“You would have found the way. When she calls to a woman, they find the way.” He stared into my face. “And, I did not want you to be alone at this time.” He stroked my throat. “The stone mother will not give you back your children, Elizabeth.”
“She will.” She had made the promise in my dreams. That’s why I’d travelled across the world to find her.
“She will not. She will give you something that looks like them, sounds and thinks like them, but underneath there will be something other, something old, and strange born in the distant skies. The things that are waiting to be born, Elizabeth. The women of my family know this. The times of bitterness have taught them. That is why she’s reaching out, to others.”
“You have no choice, Jemplim.” I kissed him, gently lightly as a mother would kiss a child. “Go back to your tribe. We’ll make our own way, or perhaps we will stay. This temple has been deserted for too long.”
“If I go, I’ll bring the men of my tribe to kill the creatures that come out of the temple. They will not be your children, and we will not endure such things to live.”
“You will try, Jemplim, I never excepted anything less of you.”
He stared at me, trying to read the language in my face. But he never truly understood me, we came together a little ways. But no further.
I tried to take another step, but Jemplim held me tightly. The stone guardian turned her head towards us, the stone tentacles beginning to unwind.
I did not think that a man could make such a desolate cry.
Jemplim left me.
I continued my journey, to tread the path, so many other mothers, had trod before. My children. Nothing would keep me from them.
The stone mother knew that, she understood the language of my heart, and old and alien as she was, I would speak to her. And if my children helped the old mother bring her own children to life, then what of it? I understood her. We spoke the same language.
The full moon looked down on Harry Templar from the night sky above as he sat shivering on the wooden bench in the old cemetery. He surveyed his surroundings. The place was empty, he had no one for company but the dead.
It was 2 AM and he was waiting for Linda.
She had phoned him half an hour ago and as always he had agreed to meet her. Why she had chosen this god forsaken place though…..he couldn’t understand.
She’d probably take advantage of their friendship as always. Every time she had a problem she whistled and inevitably he would come running. She’d been doing it for years, ever since they were kids.
He lit up a cigarette, striking the match just above the B on Billy Wilders Headstone.. He guessed Billy wouldn’t mind too much, he died from TB in 1893.
As he pulled his thick coat tightly against himself and took a large hit of nicotine he saw something moving in the distance, something far blacker than the darkness of the night surrounding it.
Must be a cat he thought, not much else it could be, it was larger than a rat, which pleased him. He hated rats. Ever since he was made to dissect one in the biology class at school. That had been years ago but ever since then any animal resembling a rodent in any way, shape or form, dragged him back through time to that day in the classroom. It was the smell he remembered most vividly, the horrible sweet rotten meat smell that emanated from the dead animal when he made his first and only sweeping incision with the scalpel, it was as sharp as a scythe.
One cuts all he managed, the combination of the pink flesh and the smell had made him throw up on the back of the girl sitting at the table in front.
He shivered at the memory and concentrated on finishing the rest of his cigarette.
Then he saw another dark shadow, larger this time, he caught the moonlight glinting in its eyes as it scarpered behind an ornate carving of an angel.
“What the fuck!”
Im having a flash back he thought, I shouldn’t have dropped all that acid all those years ago.
He rubbed his eyes and looked towards the angel.
She just knelt there, hands clasped together silently praying to the night sky above.
Quite a creepy looking figure he thought to himself as he blew a smoke ring into the air
Then, she stood up and turned her head towards him. He watched as the eyelids opened and blood red tears streamed down her alabaster face.
He tried to stand up but his legs had turned to jelly.
Then the black shape reappeared, he could see what it was now, It was a huge raven. It perched on the angels shoulder and made a hideous sound.
He could feel and hear his heart beating in his chest, the pounding was getting louder and louder.
His legs still wouldn’t work, he rubbed them, frantically trying to get rid of the numbness, it was no use, they felt like they didn’t belong to him anymore.
He watched as the statue, with the ever present raven got closer and closer.
He watched as the blood flowing from her eyes started forming bright red gothic letters.
N then E…….. He watched the word form. NEVERMORE.
He woke up to bright sunlight, it took him a few seconds to find his bearings.
“You’d fallen asleep and you were mumbling, looked like you were having a nightmare.”
He sat up on the bench in the country church yard and glanced over at the statue of the angel.
He shivered and looked at the book at his side.
The Complete Works of E.A.Poe.
He tossed it in the bin at the side of the bench.
“That’s the last time Im reading that shit!”
Steve Christie’s author webpage can be found at http://about.me/stevechristieauthor.
The shining eyes of a cat in a darkened alley are orange omens meant to ward off familiar spirits. So I am told by the corner mystic sniffling heavy between crystal ball examinations. From the likes of him I’d say the ball is the only thing of value he owns. His clothes are rags the Salvation Army would reject. His smell, well, cats don’t hang around because of transcendental wisdom.
I keep my distance and respect. His death predictions are uncanny. As if the Devil himself were relaying the information. The street wanderers are spooked, and I mean, really spooked. Drug dealers think he’s a narc and curse his arcane ramblings as police propaganda created to scare business away. And business is down—down big time. Ever since his smelly combat boots stepped on their turf. Holy revenge was the only option to save face. Their Mac-10’s ready to erase any fool standing against the flow of dead presidents. But after two dealers were found sliced in pieces in an abandoned railroad car, the businessmen have easily concluded the mystic must be an undercover agent. They keep their distance and respect. His death predictions are uncanny.
Cities are too modern in philosophy for any thinking person to believe in magic of whatever shade or shape. Yet since his arrival people believe, people believe in Big Juju, serious Hoodoo, yes even, straight up painted Voodoo. Mystic man shuns those asking for tomorrow’s lottery number. Says the spirit world would punish his abuse of second sight. I don’t get it. He predicts death, that’s all right. Predicting a couple of numbers to help some miserable idiot live on more than choke sandwiches and bug juice—no, that’ll upset the spirit world! If you ask me this spirit world doesn’t sound any more charitable than the concrete world. The Devil’s probably laughing raw red butt off right now. It figures. Someone’s always having a party at our expense.
Jakey stopped by this evening. Jakey’s the local filthy junkie with needle marks in his groin area. The arm and leg veins have all collapsed and surrendered. I figured he was trying bum money off me as usual. But tonight it was something else. Some information. He didn’t even want money for it. Jakey heard that “Dr. Crystal,” that’s what everyone calls the mystic, predicted my death late tonight.
I wasn’t impressed, but Jakey was whiter than the garbage he mainlines into his sweaty testicles. He was covered in sweat and jittery like a fish flopping on a pier deck. I was about to hand him a few bucks for old time’s sake when he just bolted down the hall babbling about magic and madness. Poor puke-brain punk, Jakey is due to hit by a speeding truck. And I’ll almost miss him.
It’s high time to pay this devil dork a visit. Got my own business to keep. No time to spare on whacked out gonejobs on a mission from Hell or wherever their mother once spread her legs. I’ll just bounce this bum’s head with few swings of lead pipe—and bam! —he’ll have a different outlook on my future.
Who could blame me? I’ve been fairly decent to these night crawling semi-conscious communists out here. I never hurt an innocent one. If I can use the term “innocent.” Certainly never robbed one. I just complete my contracts and go about my life in peace of mind. My services are much appreciated. Go ask the police. Bullet here, bullet there, dangerous boneheads dead everywhere. All they have to do is clean up and go back to the station to file a report. At the end of the day they can rely on their fat pensions and fatter wives. I’m a public servant no different than that of a mayor. Except I’m honest about my agenda.
A few droplets of blood running out of nose don’t frighten me. This has happened before. When the weather changes I bleed a bit. An old war injury I’d rather not talk about. I know what you’re thinking—the Hex is on. Nothing couldn’t be further from the truth. I’m nearing his corner and decided to do a drive by and get it done with permanently. Police will blame some lame gang bangers and that will be that.
So I’m a little dizzy. Ever since I changed cigarette brands this happens once in a while. Really nothing to be concerned about. I piss on predictions and wipe my ass with horoscopes. I just pop an aspirin and headache all gone. See, nothing to it. These stomach cramps are obvious reminders that I must stop slamming down Chili Dogs faster Haitian hookers. A few anti-acid tabs always do the trick. And my leg tremors are part of that old war injury I’d rather not talk about.
I wish I could breathe a bit better this evening. I should of never switched cigarette brands. These new fangled filters are not helping at all. There he is! The mystic jerk with a prediction. I’m gonna make one right now. A dirty worthless bum got his head pumped full of lead, news at eleven. Let’s see him predict that! Phony sack of bird crap!
Ah, Hell, there’s always another night. My vision is still a bit blurry. I’ll drive on home and spit out this blood. You’d think after all the cash I gave the dentist he’d get my teeth right. Really tired, but I’m strong, strong enough to keep open these eyes until I hit the sack. I’ll take out the garbage later. I just need to sleep before I swerve this wheel into that large building over there…right there….right over there…….
Mark Antony Rossi’s poetry, criticism and fiction have been published by The Antigonish Review, Bareback Magazine, Black Heart Review, Collages & Bricolages, Cerebrus, Death Throes, Ethical Specacle, Deep South Journal, Flash Fiction,The Magill Review, Japanophile, Purple Patch, Slugfish,The Journal of Poetry Therapy. He currently writes a weekly science humor column for The Magill Review. His website can be found at http://markantonyrossi.jigsy.com