Friday, February 28, 2014

Bared Souls (Part 2)

Jones halted the horse outside the Westgate meatpacking facilities and jumped down. Talia crawled around in the back of the cart, securing a holy cross around the corpse’s neck before joining him, shovels in hand.
“Why do we need the shovels?” Jones asked. “There’s no grave.”
Talia just shrugged and pushed one against his chest until he took it. Then she gaily marched to the backdoor, singing Latin airily. It took her little time to break open the lock and let them both into the dark meatpacking plant.
“So where’s this corpse?” Jones asked, pushing the door to.
Talia pulled a candle from her pocket and lit the wick, handing it to Jones. He juggled with the candle and shovel while trying to get a glove on to protect against the wax.
“So?” he pressed as they roamed the empty building.
Talia just kept walking and singing. Dominus omnium vigiliis semper paternum ducit, numquam. The words floating around Jones’ head, echoing against the stone walls. He had no idea what they meant and could never tell if she was singing a real song or making it up as she went. For all he knew, she wasn’t even singing Latin. What he did know was that she either enjoyed elaborate plots to string him along, or she had an uncanny ability to find dead things. All she ever needed was a location and a song and before long, voila, corpse. Some of them, she would have had to have put the body there herself to be able to find it, and yet she did, and as far as he knew, wasn’t the one who stashed it away.
“How do you even get these jobs?” he asked.
Talia glanced back at him and smiled without breaking the song.
“How do you know there’s a corpse somewhere that...Satan is going to possess or whatever? I mean, really, you sing a little song and it...what? Draws you toward the body? And what do you even do with them? We take them to the church and then what? Do you burn them? Bury them again? What?”
Talia’s song lowered in volume, and a look of deep concentration crossed her face as she slowed to a stop in front of a door. She carefully reached out and touched the handle, Latin whispering past her lips, then turned it, opening the door. Jones followed her inside, gripping the shovel a little tighter.
A snippet of Talia’s song brushed past them like a bolt of wind and Jones spun to follow it. Nothing was there, nothing had been there, but when he turned back to Talia, she was grinning in that way she had when they were close to a corpse.
She pushed deeper into the room, revealing it to be an office of some kind. A man’s naked body lay face down on the floor.
“That it?” Jones asked.
Talia nodded and Jones stepped toward it. He didn’t have time for this Latin nonsense or delusions or wind or whatever was going on. Get in, get out, keep the cash coming. That was the motto he lived by and it worked for him. He looked down at the corpse, but didn’t touch it.
“What’s it doing here?” he asked. “How did he die?”
Talia kept singing, but she closed her eyes and then slipped in between phrases, “In extreme ecstasy.”
Jones cleared his throat. “And, uh, what does that mean exactly?”  
She pointed at the naked body. “What do you think?”
“But in a meat factory?”
“His place of work. It was an affair.”
Jones grimaced. “Lucky us.”
Talia only chuckled, focusing again on her singing. Jones took a breath, then hoisted up the corpse over his shoulder. The candle blew out. He stopped, looking toward Talia. In the dim light, he could just make out her eyes and teeth shining in the darkness.
Jesu Christe, kyrie eleison,” Talia sang softly, then paused.
Moments later a screaming wind rushed past them, and they both staggered away from. Jones was sure though that he had heard the words back within the wind. Then it came shrieking back toward them.
“That is not a corpse,” he shouted over it as it blasted around the room.
“That’s a demon,” she said.
“Why is it speaking Latin?”
“It’s not. Close though. Oh. Brace yourself, Jones!”

“You’re about to be possessed.”

[part 2 of 3 of the short story, divvied up for your convenience]

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Bared Souls (part 1)

“Jones, hurry up,” Talia said, tossing the shovels into the back of the cart. “We’ve got to go.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” Jones said as he broke open the casket and hoisted the fresh corpse out of the box. He draped the body, once a rich woman, over his shoulders and started climbing out of the hole. Talia took his hand and helped him the rest of the way out.
As far as cemeteries went, it was a bit of a dump really. The weeds were high enough and plentiful enough to start up a search-and-find game just to find one gravestone, heaven forbid a specific one. Once the first obstacle was overcome, then came the difficulty of reading the headstones which weather and time had obliterated. And then Lord help you if you were a grave robber with the added complication of making the trip into a nighttime excursion. Short of setting the entire cemetery on fire, it was better to just try somewhere else.
Not that that had stopped Talia. She happily took the corpse’s feet, leaving the heavy part to Jones. Together they tossed the body into the cart with the shovels. Jones paused, flicking sweat off his face and glancing toward the redheaded woman. She was an odd one and thrived on impossibility. As far as partners went, he could do better.  As far as bosses went...well, she paid well. Well enough to put up with her peculiarities. Talia jumped up into the driver’s seat, picking up the reins.
“Hold up, we’re not leaving it open are we?” Jones asked, looking back at the uncovered hole.
“Not like there’s anything in there to cover up. We’re late, come on,” Talia said impatiently.
Jones grunted in annoyance and then swung up next to her, pulling the reins from her grip. “My horse, my cart, I drive.”
“Then do it.” she said.
He clucked his tongue and urged the horse forward. It picked up a trot and they pulled out of the cemetery. Jones pulled out a rumpled piece of paper as they went, leaning toward the lantern hanging from the front of the cart and frowning at the tiny writing.
“Westgate? That’s not a cemetery.”
“No, but it’s got a corpse,” Talia said.
“It’s a meat factory.”
“And it’s got one corpse just for us.”
Jones squinted at the redhead. “What?”
She shrugged. “It might be a little lively.”
His eyebrows joined with his hair. “Excuse me?”
She laughed. “Just kidding.”
Jones didn’t relax, but he turned his attention back to the road. “So help me, if I have to kill something already dead, you are on your own from here on out.”
“Spoil sport,” she muttered. “Well, don’t worry. Last one on the list and then we get a bit of a break.”
“What’s the retaliation if we don’t get it?”
“We’ll probably be dead. Or imprisoned. Very poor at the least.” She glanced at him, then added quickly, “And humankind will cease to exist.”
Jones almost pulled the horse up. “What?”
Talia casually inspected her fingernails. “Well, it’s a prime vessel if something gets a hold of it. You know, for demons.”
Jones groaned. This again. “For demons. Sure.”
“Demons possess corpses, Jones. It’s a fact. And we stop them.”
“No, you stop them. I just get paid,” he said. He didn’t mind indulging Talia’s oddities because she had never failed to deliver in cash. If she wanted to believe in demons, then she was welcome to it. The only time it annoyed him was when she tried to convert him.
“Alright. I get it. You need proof,” she said. “Well, you don’t want proof. If you see it, we messed up and the city is probably burned to the ground.”
“What a shame.”
“You should show more respect of the dark forces.”
“Why? What will they do? Possess me? Kill me? Please.”
“They’ll strip you naked and eat your soul.”
“Grand,” he said. “We’re here. So your thing.”

[Part one of my three part short story, divvied up for your convenience.]

Monday, February 17, 2014

Before the Day Breaks

I am sleeping, my eyes closed,
Our breathing, steady, steady, slow.
I know without waking that he is here,
His arm on my waist, his breath in my ear.
For this one moment the world is ours,
Our miniscule world away from the hours
And hours of distance, pretending ennui
When we pass by each other out there on the streets.

I beg you, don’t wake me, don’t flush out this dream
For when it has ended I’ll know what it means.
I’ll know what I’ve given; I’ll know what I’ve lost
And again break my heart when I tally the cost.
I know all his flaws and I know all his faults.
I know what he’s done; I can taste still the salt
Of his tears every night when he holds me and cries
For the people he’s stolen from their families and lives.

Our heartbeats split, again become two.
When I wake I am crying and know he is too.
He withdraws from my side, and takes all the warmth.
I catch him by the fingertips; hold him to my shores.
Don’t go, but you must. I would stay if I could.

When he is gone, the room starts to spin
And all of the colors are no longer within.
I lie down and don’t cry for the bed’s not too cold
And I lie and pretend that I’m not alone.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Imbroglio on the 14th

Confused? Check.
Complicated? Check.
Embarrassing? Double check.
Must I run through the list again?
Yes, I really said it.
I told him.
Check one, check two.
Can you hear me?
I love you!
Oh crap. Did I say that?
No, no, no. Let’s take that back.
I mean, not really. I do. But—crap.
Okay, restart.
I thoroughly like you.
Thoroughly? What’s that? What on earth?
Not what I meant.
You’re gorgeous!
Wait, what?
I mean, oh gosh.
Can we not and say we did? Or try again?
Maybe tomorrow when it’s not the 14th.
Or never. That works too. Alright, if that’s fine with you.
Sure, bye. I was just kidding.
 Ha, ha. 

[Imbroglio- an extremely confused, complicated, or embarrassing situation.]

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Duke's Men

[An excerpt from a short story I am working on]

“Out of the way, boy!” the stagehand shouted as he and another hefted a heavy box of props past.
Thomasine leapt back.
“Sorry!” she cried, as she weaved past them and made for the actors pacing the stage or unloading the props. “Have you seen Master Berkely?” the boy asked. “Has any soul seen the playwright?”
“Try the tavern,” one of the older actors suggested as he rubbed his arthritic wrists.
“I did already,” Thomasine answered. “Every one that lies along this street.”
But the actor was talking to someone else and Thomasine was left without suggestion. She dashed off again, scuttling to a hasty stop when the company manager brushed past, eyes watery and pussy, muttering under his breath about permits and taxes.
There were rumors about Gittens, the company manager. Some of the company said that he was plague-ridden, though that was absurd or they’d all have got it by then. Most thought he was swindling money or else reported to the king. Thomasine was sure it was a bit of both. They didn’t know she knew, but there were at least five members of the company who spied for the king and another six that helped themselves to the coffers on at least two separate occasions. Thomasine never said a word though. She had her own little secret and wasn’t about to gammy that up by blabbing about someone else’s. It was why she preferred to stay out of Gittens’ way. When he wasn’t scolding the troup about finances, he was quite jovial and particularly shrewd. He’d tell everyone if he figured out what she really was. The Duke’s Men were too rough a troupe to let slip her actual gender. Everything worked perfectly with her as a boy and she intended to keep it that way.
Her parents had often passed her off as a boy when she was younger for dozens of different reasons and she’d really spent more time as a boy than she had as a girl. It was much easier being a boy, particularly after running away to join a theatre troupe. Possibly, that would end up being a mistake, but for the moment, it was nothing short of brilliant.
Gittens trotted breathlessly up the stairs and Thomasine continued on her way, shouting for the playwright, Master Berkely. No one had seen him. He was supposed to hand over the new play today for rehearsal before the show went up the next afternoon. And Thomasine was supposed to have been keeping track of the old drunk. And she had been. But he’d passed out during load-in and she’d let him sleep to help put the stage back in after the day’s cockfights. Bloody, stupid man.
“Has anyone seen where Master Berkely has gone?” she cried.
“Perchance I have,” a low voice said from behind her.
Thomasine spun around and found herself far too close the narrow, pointed face of Cuthbert. He always played the male lead, but Thomasine hated him. He liked to torture the feral dogs and cats that inevitably cropped up around a theatre, and lingered at uncomfortably close distances in the dark wings behind sets. Thomasine swallowed and took a step back, bumping against the wall.
“Have you yet tried the brothels, Thomas?” Cuthbert rumbled, his rancid breath rolling over her.
Thomasine unintentionally shuddered. “Not as of yet,” she breathed.
“Then do so. We cannot perform if the play and the playwright are missing.” Cuthbert stepped back with a thin smile. “Best be fleet and find him...boy.”
“Yes, thank you, fare you...”
She spun away and rushed off as fast as she could without completely running. His low, wheezing laugh followed her.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Not Our Family Reunion

It is practically a requirement in my family to tell this story. My sister has told it in the past to great success and my brother has no doubt told his version. The trip wherein the story took place has many tales that are endlessly recounted, mostly because they are worth retelling. This one, though, is the best. It is the story of how I almost died.

Family reunion, 2001 (approximately), Oklahoma in the middle of August. We were at a state park. My immediate family arrived at the park to a flush of strangers who were all, we were assured, relatives. I am still doubtful of some of them. The only people there I actually knew were my grandparents, my uncles, aunts, and their children. Everyone else might as well have been there for another reunion. I won't bore you with the details of how my brother was lauded for having been born my father's son, though needless to say, my sister and I were not terribly pleased. It's always fun to be introduced and have everyone immediately skip to your brother because, gosh, he's my dad's only son and will carry on the family name.

Well, after a day of this crap, my sister and I were annoyed and ready to do something more interesting, so we grab the precious Golden Boy and go for a hike through this state park. It was endlessly eventful, involving deer, armadillos, cliff diving, people who may or may not have been relatives (it was never really clear). Well, after these adventures and finally convincing my brother not to jump off the cliff into the river (I don't care that you tested the depth; it's still stupid), we come to a divergent in the path. Our maybe-maybe not relatives that we'd chased an armadillo with and also convinced to not jump off a cliff, took the obvious branch of the path, you know, the one that looked like a path. My siblings and I? We took the tractor path.

It had not been mowed in months, the grass up to our waist and just a narrow tire track to walk in as we passed through a meadow. So pre-teen, do not put me in a sport ever me followed my track-star siblings as the meadow gave way to a short section of woods. As we entered the heavily leafed woods, we very quickly became aware of something.


Every step we took, sent things scurrying away in droves. Bright, clever people that we were, we investigated these little scurries. My sister, the eldest of us, leans down a bit and realizes what the things are.

"Lizards! Look, Pat, baby lizards!"

And indeed, they were little baby lizards, with triangular heads, copper-colored bodies and all about three to five inches long. Adorable.

We keep going, watching our steps carefully and they start to get a bit bigger. We look farther down the path and they seem quite a bit larger along the way, and odder still, they don't quite move like lizards.

Regardless, my siblings decide that we should catch one. So they bend down and attempt to herd one into the other's hands while I watch. As one of the little lizards near my sister's hands, she realizes something.

"These lizards have no legs."

We quickly go through the other descriptors. Triangular heads, no legs, copper colored. We stand up ASAP.

"These are baby copperheads," my sister gasps.

For those of you who don't know, Oklahoma has a plethora of dangerous and highly poisonous snakes. The copperhead is one of those. (Fun fact: it is actually found in most of the United States. You're welcome.) While not the most poisonous snake ever, they've got enough of a bite to cause serious problems (like death).

Well, now we had a problem (duh). We were standing in the middle of a nest of copperheads which left us a few choices. We could keep going--we could see where the forest let out and it wasn't very far away--but as we had earlier noticed, the "baby lizards" were getting bigger as they went that way. So that left going back the way we'd come, through the snakes.

Suddenly we felt like we had snakes crawling all over our shoes. Nobody suggested it, but boom! All at once my two track-and-field siblings with extremely long legs, training, and age took off sprinting like gazelle for the tire tracks. Thanks guys.

Young, pre-teen me with no experience in track or field, no training, still waiting on the long legs, was left standing in the nest of copperheads. I went screaming after them.


We go bounding through the tall track doing high knees the whole way and all I can think of is that moment in one of the Jurassic Park movies where they're all running through the tall grass and the dinosaurs are just sucking 'em down one at a time. We're all screaming and running and we pelted it back to the reunion site.

Breathlessly telling the story to our grandmother, an Oklahoman native, she proceeded to tell us that copperhead mothers are present for the birth of their children and given how many babies we'd stumbled upon, there were at least four nests in close proximity.

And we wondered why that meadow hadn't been mowed in a long time. Apparently we hadn't been the only family having a reunion.

[yes, this is a true story.]