Donate coins to sandflea68.
Juice
Cancel
Simon & Schuster is one of the world’s leading publishers and we are always looking for fresh new voices. Write a story, chapter, or essay about whatever you like. The 50 best entries will be announced by Prose and read by our editorial staff for consideration.
Written by sandflea68 in portal Simon & Schuster

Half of Me is Missing (excerpt)

“Jasmine was such a beautiful baby with her ivory complexion, pretty rosebud mouth, rosy cheeks and stunning green eyes. Her hair was so black and lustrous with soft curls. I couldn’t believe that she was our child!” Ann Stewart’s body seemed to elongate as she sat up straighter in her chair. Obviously, she had once been proud and thrilled by her daughter.

“I noticed that she didn't really seem to bond with me, although I held her and rocked her and tried to do everything I thought I should do to nurture her. This was our first child so I thought that her reaction to us might be normal for a young baby. She never seemed to cry or smile or show any emotion. I became upset, fearing that she didn't like me, but I was so overjoyed at having a kid after so many years of trying that I overlooked her responses. My friends and relatives all cooed at her in admiration of her beauty but she didn’t seem to care. Her pediatrician told me not to worry since she appeared perfectly normal. He advised us both to spend a lot of time with her, holding and touching her. I wondered why she did not smile like other babies did. I began to wonder if it was my fault that she was not developing as I thought she should. Because she was my first child, I had little experience in child development and began to doubt my abilities. I could tell that she was intelligent as she explored her immediate area and watched those around her. She talked very early but her words were not really directed toward anyone. She seemed to be carrying on conversations with herself or with some unseen person. The only time she seemed somewhat happy is when she looked into the mirror on one of her crib toys and babbled at her reflection as if it were actually her own self instead of a reflection.”

I noticed that tears were coursing down Ann’s cheeks as she described her child. I could see that she loved her but was perplexed since she was unable to reach her. She appeared to have almost given up on Jasmine and was now beginning to direct her attention toward her other children who did interact with her.

I turned toward George Stewart and asked him, “How do you feel about your daughter? Do you have anything to add to what your wife has advised? Do you agree with her observations?”

“My wife and I are simple people,” responded George. “We own and operate a mom and pop grocery store here in the outskirts of Portland. I always thought that my daughter, Jasmine, would join us in our business after high school. If it’s good enough for me, it should be good enough for her! But, oh no, she wants no part of our business. She thinks she’s too good to do this type of work and refuses to even discuss it. I admit that she was an excellent student in high school, right at the top of her class. She graduated early when she had just turned 17. I thought she had the brains and ambition to eventually take over as manager of my store.” George pulled strands of hair nervously up from the top of his head as he vented his frustration. His face turned red in frustration as he showed his disappointment.

“I understand how you feel,” I sympathized with George. “But, tell me how Jasmine was as a child to your best recollection.”

“She was such a beautiful baby and I was so proud of her. However, she never seemed to care much about me. I tried to play with her and get her to laugh but I never felt she was on my wave length. My wife and I took her into our shop and put her in a small playpen behind the cash register. Every customer that came in remarked on her loveliness, wanting to hold her and interact with her. We actually did allow some of our long term customers to pick her up to see if she would be stimulated by someone else. We always felt guilty that she did not seem to like us. But she never responded to all the attention she received. I thought maybe she was just shy and would develop later but she never did. When she began to talk early, she would just ask for things that she wanted. She never seemed to give us any reaction no matter how hard we tried. I just hoped that she would become more loving when she became older.” When Jasmine was almost three, we finally were able to have another child, a wonderful little boy we called George, Jr. He was the polar opposite of Jasmine and loved us with all his heart. He often tried to catch Jasmine’s attention as he smiled and cooed, but she couldn’t care less. Jasmine was always looking around, searching for the other half of her body. She insisted, even then, that part of her was missing. I could not understand it! Later, we had two more children whom we adored. Jasmine might have felt left out but she never seemed to resent the lack of attention because of our other children who needed and appreciated our encouragement.”

“Is there anything else that you feel is significant?” I asked George.

“Well,” he reluctantly replied, “I noticed that she seemed to be flirtatious with the younger boys and I felt she was too seductive. My wife said that I was crazy because such a young child would not be doing this. She said that all little children played ‘doctor’ and that it was a normal part of growing up. But one night, both of us went into George’s bedroom to kiss him goodnight, as was our ritual with all the children. We were both absolutely horrified to find Jasmine, naked, rubbing up to little George. We did discuss this with their pediatrician who advised us that we shouldn’t put too much significance on this act because it would just draw attention to something that was probably a temporary thing. He told us to explain to Jasmine that we knew that she was a good little girl but we did not allow this experimentation in our family. George was only three at the time and too young to understand. And, Dr. Engel, can you guess what Jasmine said to me when I reasoned with her?”

“What did she say,” I asked with curiosity as I was taking my notes.

“She said, ‘It wasn’t me that did it. It was my other part that I can’t find. If I

can find her, I will tell her not to do it anymore!’ ” Tears filled George’s eyes as

he related this to me.

57
21
70
Juice
739 reads
Donate coins to sandflea68.
Juice
Cancel
Simon & Schuster is one of the world’s leading publishers and we are always looking for fresh new voices. Write a story, chapter, or essay about whatever you like. The 50 best entries will be announced by Prose and read by our editorial staff for consideration.
Written by sandflea68 in portal Simon & Schuster
Half of Me is Missing (excerpt)
“Jasmine was such a beautiful baby with her ivory complexion, pretty rosebud mouth, rosy cheeks and stunning green eyes. Her hair was so black and lustrous with soft curls. I couldn’t believe that she was our child!” Ann Stewart’s body seemed to elongate as she sat up straighter in her chair. Obviously, she had once been proud and thrilled by her daughter.

“I noticed that she didn't really seem to bond with me, although I held her and rocked her and tried to do everything I thought I should do to nurture her. This was our first child so I thought that her reaction to us might be normal for a young baby. She never seemed to cry or smile or show any emotion. I became upset, fearing that she didn't like me, but I was so overjoyed at having a kid after so many years of trying that I overlooked her responses. My friends and relatives all cooed at her in admiration of her beauty but she didn’t seem to care. Her pediatrician told me not to worry since she appeared perfectly normal. He advised us both to spend a lot of time with her, holding and touching her. I wondered why she did not smile like other babies did. I began to wonder if it was my fault that she was not developing as I thought she should. Because she was my first child, I had little experience in child development and began to doubt my abilities. I could tell that she was intelligent as she explored her immediate area and watched those around her. She talked very early but her words were not really directed toward anyone. She seemed to be carrying on conversations with herself or with some unseen person. The only time she seemed somewhat happy is when she looked into the mirror on one of her crib toys and babbled at her reflection as if it were actually her own self instead of a reflection.”

I noticed that tears were coursing down Ann’s cheeks as she described her child. I could see that she loved her but was perplexed since she was unable to reach her. She appeared to have almost given up on Jasmine and was now beginning to direct her attention toward her other children who did interact with her.

I turned toward George Stewart and asked him, “How do you feel about your daughter? Do you have anything to add to what your wife has advised? Do you agree with her observations?”

“My wife and I are simple people,” responded George. “We own and operate a mom and pop grocery store here in the outskirts of Portland. I always thought that my daughter, Jasmine, would join us in our business after high school. If it’s good enough for me, it should be good enough for her! But, oh no, she wants no part of our business. She thinks she’s too good to do this type of work and refuses to even discuss it. I admit that she was an excellent student in high school, right at the top of her class. She graduated early when she had just turned 17. I thought she had the brains and ambition to eventually take over as manager of my store.” George pulled strands of hair nervously up from the top of his head as he vented his frustration. His face turned red in frustration as he showed his disappointment.

“I understand how you feel,” I sympathized with George. “But, tell me how Jasmine was as a child to your best recollection.”

“She was such a beautiful baby and I was so proud of her. However, she never seemed to care much about me. I tried to play with her and get her to laugh but I never felt she was on my wave length. My wife and I took her into our shop and put her in a small playpen behind the cash register. Every customer that came in remarked on her loveliness, wanting to hold her and interact with her. We actually did allow some of our long term customers to pick her up to see if she would be stimulated by someone else. We always felt guilty that she did not seem to like us. But she never responded to all the attention she received. I thought maybe she was just shy and would develop later but she never did. When she began to talk early, she would just ask for things that she wanted. She never seemed to give us any reaction no matter how hard we tried. I just hoped that she would become more loving when she became older.” When Jasmine was almost three, we finally were able to have another child, a wonderful little boy we called George, Jr. He was the polar opposite of Jasmine and loved us with all his heart. He often tried to catch Jasmine’s attention as he smiled and cooed, but she couldn’t care less. Jasmine was always looking around, searching for the other half of her body. She insisted, even then, that part of her was missing. I could not understand it! Later, we had two more children whom we adored. Jasmine might have felt left out but she never seemed to resent the lack of attention because of our other children who needed and appreciated our encouragement.”

“Is there anything else that you feel is significant?” I asked George.

“Well,” he reluctantly replied, “I noticed that she seemed to be flirtatious with the younger boys and I felt she was too seductive. My wife said that I was crazy because such a young child would not be doing this. She said that all little children played ‘doctor’ and that it was a normal part of growing up. But one night, both of us went into George’s bedroom to kiss him goodnight, as was our ritual with all the children. We were both absolutely horrified to find Jasmine, naked, rubbing up to little George. We did discuss this with their pediatrician who advised us that we shouldn’t put too much significance on this act because it would just draw attention to something that was probably a temporary thing. He told us to explain to Jasmine that we knew that she was a good little girl but we did not allow this experimentation in our family. George was only three at the time and too young to understand. And, Dr. Engel, can you guess what Jasmine said to me when I reasoned with her?”

“What did she say,” I asked with curiosity as I was taking my notes.

“She said, ‘It wasn’t me that did it. It was my other part that I can’t find. If I
can find her, I will tell her not to do it anymore!’ ” Tears filled George’s eyes as
he related this to me.
#fiction  #mystery  #psychologicalthriller 
57
21
70
Juice
739 reads
Load 70 Comments
Login to post comments.
Advertisement  (turn off)
Donate coins to sandflea68.
Juice
Cancel
ProseChallenge #67: Write a poem about grief.
Written by sandflea68

Silence

My Dad is here

     I walk along the empty beach

     kicking bits of jagged shells

     grand old man lying in musk of time

     setting sun ushering the darkness

My Dad is here

     I crawl bereft into bruised dusk

     salty tears mingle with Dad’s streams

     sea of solace stretches out her arms

     still, I scream mournfully at deaf sky

My Dad is here

     balmy winds breathe his kindness

     glazed stars of his wide smile

     palms up, he waves his sweet goodbye

     my grief blends with the soft rain

My Dad is here

     I see the back of his head

     slumbering in billowing clouds

     thirsty tides have waned

     he has floated into new ripples

My Dad is here

     the crested waves swell

     forming stiff meringue peaks

     broken shells washed out to sea

     waters unassuming and deep

My Dad is here

     the peaceful sleep of angels

     on calmness of ocean floor

     casting his beloved shadow

     upon my azure memories

My Dad is here

     carving a path in the sand

     through the ups and downs of life

     surging currents to remind me

     that he is not lost in my sea

My Dad is here

     a life buoy to hold on to

     smooth water fingers

     cushioning me from grief

     the soothing sound of silence

My Dad is always here

56
29
69
Juice
275 reads
Donate coins to sandflea68.
Juice
Cancel
ProseChallenge #67: Write a poem about grief.
Written by sandflea68
Silence
My Dad is here
     I walk along the empty beach
     kicking bits of jagged shells
     grand old man lying in musk of time
     setting sun ushering the darkness

My Dad is here
     I crawl bereft into bruised dusk
     salty tears mingle with Dad’s streams
     sea of solace stretches out her arms
     still, I scream mournfully at deaf sky

My Dad is here
     balmy winds breathe his kindness
     glazed stars of his wide smile
     palms up, he waves his sweet goodbye
     my grief blends with the soft rain

My Dad is here
     I see the back of his head
     slumbering in billowing clouds
     thirsty tides have waned
     he has floated into new ripples

My Dad is here
     the crested waves swell
     forming stiff meringue peaks
     broken shells washed out to sea
     waters unassuming and deep

My Dad is here
     the peaceful sleep of angels
     on calmness of ocean floor
     casting his beloved shadow
     upon my azure memories

My Dad is here
     carving a path in the sand
     through the ups and downs of life
     surging currents to remind me
     that he is not lost in my sea

My Dad is here
     a life buoy to hold on to
     smooth water fingers
     cushioning me from grief
     the soothing sound of silence

My Dad is always here
#poetry  #spirituality  #grief  #melancholy  #SoothingSoundOfSilence 
56
29
69
Juice
275 reads
Load 69 Comments
Login to post comments.
Donate coins to Helenalyn.
Juice
Cancel
Simon & Schuster is one of the world’s leading publishers and we are always looking for fresh new voices. Write a story, chapter, or essay about whatever you like. The 50 best entries will be announced by Prose and read by our editorial staff for consideration.
Written by Helenalyn in portal Simon & Schuster

Skin (Chapter 1)

Eyes locked on the girl, Josh struggled to balance the rifle on his shoulder as the slippery neuroskin under his sweatshirt pulled it off-center. I never should’ve sold the skin on my arms, he thought. The girl was propped up against a maple thirty yards out, guzzling a Coke and eating a Poptart, crumbs landing on the crest of her rounded stomach.

__

I see you Goldie, she thought, yawning. Damn boys are no different than monkeys in Thailand trained to rip wristwatches off tourists for their masters. Except his master wants my skin...

___

Through the scope, slowly blinking grey-green eyes and sunken cheeks splattered with large spots appeared close enough to touch. The zipper on her windbreaker had burst open revealing irregular shaped spots on her stomach and as he watched, golden leaves spun down onto her red curls. She’s been on the road as long as me, he thought.

___

I’m exhausted. If it wasn’t for you, my love, I’d let them skin me. Breeding programs like the one that impregnated her had created larger, darker, more leopard-like freckles in the MC1R carrier population, yet the demand was always outpacing the supply.

___

Josh trained the laser on her forearm. Already tagged. The Trac-B read her bounty at 100,000Q, but the burn rate on Spotties was so high that the baby was worth ten times that. Josh loaded a dart and was easing forward on the trigger when he felt a wire snake around his neck and squeeze.

______________

Sadie sprinted to where the boy was clawing at the slowly constricting garrote. When she tapped thumb to forefinger, the snare ceased tightening. She tossed his rifle then squatted over him.

He’s at the end of his run, she thought, taking inventory. Face crisscrossed with scars. Nose broken multiple times. She fished into his mouth, finding better quality teeth than expected and no wisdom teeth. Seventeen, maybe eighteen. He’d had some success as a tracker too. Nickel-sized bonus stamps crawled up both forearms covered with the revolting liquid plastic skin replacement.

“Look, Trackie,” she whispered, “I’ll be long gone by the time the signal wanes and this necklace…” she flicked the metal rope and his eyes popped an inch wider “drops off. You’ll be dead by then. Do you understand?”

His lips were turning blue, but he quit pulling at the snare and flashed a thumbs up sign.

“Or…I’ll give you 10,000 quid to take me over the Divide unseen.” She gestured to the zoomers above, just visible through the trees. “And my guess is you’ve run these hills before.” She looked at her watch. “You’ve got about thirty seconds left.”

He stared up at her, calculating his options, then nodded. She gave the split signal and the snare dropped off, snaked through the leaves and coiled around her ankle.

“What’s your name, Goldie?”

“Josh.” He sounded hoarse, but not angry.

“Sadie,” she responded. “Let me know when you’ve got your wind.”

He bent over one knee, coughing and lacing up his skimmers. A thick line of bruising cut across his neck and his right eye was blood red. He was twice her height, lanky and unintimidating. Though they were roughly the same age, he seemed younger.

After a few seconds, he circled his forefinger.

“Nope. Call your Wheat first. And make it good.”

“Yeah. Ok.” He coughed again then hit the comm on his Trac-B.

“Markin”

“Wha?”

“She’s gone,” Josh said, adding, “Wasn’t a Spottie anyway.”

“Whaddyou mean gone? You lose her or drop her?”

“Markin, she was a Teaser! I dropped her, okay? On my way in.”

“Josh! You lazy piece of shit. Find me something or your old ass is on carving from now on!” Markin disconnected.

Josh looked down at Sadie, one eyebrow raised.

“How long before he comes looking?”

“Won’t probably. He’ll think I’ve been poached, not that you’re a…uh...” Josh trailed off.

“Spottie. You can say it.”

He had the good manners to look down.

She sighed. “Alright, you’re in the lead. Let’s go.”

He kicked off headed north, his long strides quickly outpacing hers. Without his cough, she would never have heard him -- he knew just where to place his feet.

____

Josh slowed to a trot.

“Sadie, we’ve got a drop coming up.”

Oh, thank God, she thought. She dropped her head, pulling in lungfuls of cool air.

“You’re as loud as a boar,” Josh complained.

“Shut it, Goldie! I’m not paying you to talk.” She gasped between each word, which took the venom out of it.

The break in the forest revealed what used to be an overpass and was now a maw of rusting street cars. Josh straddled a metal girder, legs dangling. Sadie flipped up her hood.

“Where are we?”

He took a swig of water, wiping his mouth on his sleeve. “Pretty sure we’re just east of Advance. Should be signage below.”

Josh suddenly reached over her head, grabbing for the rifle.

Shit!

She rolled away, reaching under her arm and scrambling to her feet, a curved knife thrust towards his chest.

The rifle raised between his hands, he shouted, “Woah, Sadie, relax! I just need the scope, okay?

Sadie held her ground as he stripped it off, dropping the rifle at her feet with a roll of his eyes. He climbed down as far as he could, then tucked and dropped onto the hood of a wrecked BMW. Scanning under the collapsed bridge, the signage was gone. Must have been attached to the overpass.

A billboard for Harry Winston still stood. A blonde in her thirties, elbows balanced on a white tablecloth, flashed a broad smile. She wore emerald earrings and matching twisted skin bangles. Each an inch wide, the skin was a striped mix of mocha, Spottie and pale. The uneven surface of the bracelets were the only indication that underneath the skin was not wood or plastic, but bone.

___

“Anything?”

“No. But we can’t be that far from Buck Creek and the Sierras are just on the other side.”

He paused to pull long strips of rubber out of his shirt, “Let’s try for the creek by nightfall. You good?”

She nodded and smiled, stifling a sharp pain in her side.

___

“Where’d you learn how to make these?” she asked.

He sat in the dirt, straddling her bare foot, muttering under his breath.

“What?”

“Your feet are swollen,” he said, dark eyes squinting up at her.

“So….?”

“If the swelling gets worse...”

“Listen, I didn’t…”

He cut her off. “Yeah, I know. But you’re scaring the game away. I can’t make you quality skimmers, but these will help.”

“Fine.” she said, reddening. “Make it quick.”

“Of course, your highness.” He responded, the corners of his lips curling up.

She didn’t appreciate the gesture until she ran again. He’d jammed cross-sections of rubber into cuts in the soles. It not only made the boots quiet, but also wider and therefore infinitely more comfortable.

They made it to the valley well before mid-day and for once, she didn’t immediately kick her boots off, but walked along the ridge scouting for a smooth rock. He was laying back among the late-blooming wildflowers eating jerky and squinting up at the sun when she plopped down beside him.

“You’re going to choke and go blind,” she said.

He laughed, nearly choking, and re-crossed his long legs at the ankles, snapping off another bite.

She leaned forward as far as she could, coming up shy of her toes. Hello there, my love, she thought. Then she pulled up the back of her shirt and circled the clean side of the rock on her lower back, grunting with pleasure.

_____

“Sadie?”

“Unh?” she responded, eyes closed.

“Do you know how it happened?”

“What?”

“The… you know… the skin trade.” He turned towards her, shaggy hair falling over his eyes and tucked his knees into his chest.

Hmm… makes sense I guess, she thought. Wheat take kids as payment for Rock-addicted parents. Goldens are raised like dogs – given food and shelter, taught to track, but not much more.

“Yeah.” She answered finally. “I know some.”

“Tell me?” His earnest face reminded her of Noah. It had been weeks since she thought about her brother. His chubby fists tied down, screaming her name. The skin peeling off his tiny fingertips. And all the blood...

“Um…first there were piercings, where needles would pass through.” Sadie revealed her popped bellybutton and mimed piercing it. “And towards the end, the holes got bigger. My uncle Rami showed me vid of a man in India passing an entire snake through a hole in his ear.”

Josh rolled an earlobe between his fingers, bewildered.

“Then tattooing,” she continued. “No area was sacred. People inked their eyelids and inside their ears. They…”

“Have you seen Malenas?” Josh interrupted, sitting up.

“No?”

“They run Skittle across the border. Malenas have a tattoo…” Josh pointed to the center of his tongue, “…of a purple eye. I’ve seen the farms...”

“Does anyone still buy farmed skin?”

“Some, yeah. For orange Skittle, they force-feed the kids pumpkin puree. For green, they strap copper plates on. And for XP, they’re kept in the dark for years.”

Sadie shivered. At least I can run…

She continued, “When 3-D tattooing began, my mom was little. They built a pyramid on my grandfather’s back between his shoulder blades. When he fell asleep on the couch watching television, she curled up in its shade. The needle injected ink and GDF5, a cartilage-producing protein. People made horns, tails and of course, parts of their anatomy bigger too.”

Josh laughed. For all the trauma to his face, was good-looking in a goofy, coltish way.

“Some of the old-timers still have them. I once saw a man with an octopus on his head. The blue and grey tentacles climbing down the sides of his face formed aquatic sideburns. The irises were made of jade, sewn into eyes eight inches above his own.”

“3-D removal creates a bloody mess. Grafted skin was the solution…”

“Why not just use the pink?” Josh pointed to the slick arm propping up his head. The shiny plastic resembled the underside of a frisbee.

“Josh, you know why. Neuroskin is nasty. You’ve seen a Pigpen, right?”

People who sold all of their skin -- Pinkies -- were universally hooked on K-rock. Cops called their hangouts “pigpens” from the look of their tangled pink limbs on filthy mattresses, eyes rolled back, telltale white haze hanging in the air.

He changed the subject. “Do you need to cross the Divide?”

“Yeah. Why?”

“Kaweah Gap is steep. It’s the lowest point in the range, but...”

She winced and nodded.

“What if we go southwest into Three Rivers?”

“How am I walking into town?”

He tugged on her hood. “Your uh…” He struggled for the right word. Freckles. They’re called freckles… “freckles will be tougher, but a clay paste...”

She stood up. “Clay paste? For these?” She pulled her curls back so he got a good look.

“Okay, okay.” He put his palms up. “I’ll skim into Three Rivers, hit an R-X and grab proper coverup and dye.”

“You don’t think I've thought of that?” She struggled to speak calmly. “They scan you, Trackie. You probably have a freeze or two on your tag, right? And they scan you on the way in, so you can’t lift it either.”

“Fine. I’ll claim your tag and walk you in. Put the snare on.”

“Josh! You know what I’m worth, which is nothing compared to the baby. The Wheat will have me on a carving board in under an hour. We’re wasting time. I’m paying you to get me over that.”

She stabbed her finger at the snow-cap behind him marking the Divide, her arm shaking on the way down.

“And you know damn well you can’t make the climb,” he said softly.

I’ll make it, she thought, rubbing her belly, but will you, my love?

____

52
17
23
Juice
327 reads
Donate coins to Helenalyn.
Juice
Cancel
Simon & Schuster is one of the world’s leading publishers and we are always looking for fresh new voices. Write a story, chapter, or essay about whatever you like. The 50 best entries will be announced by Prose and read by our editorial staff for consideration.
Written by Helenalyn in portal Simon & Schuster
Skin (Chapter 1)
Eyes locked on the girl, Josh struggled to balance the rifle on his shoulder as the slippery neuroskin under his sweatshirt pulled it off-center. I never should’ve sold the skin on my arms, he thought. The girl was propped up against a maple thirty yards out, guzzling a Coke and eating a Poptart, crumbs landing on the crest of her rounded stomach.
__
I see you Goldie, she thought, yawning. Damn boys are no different than monkeys in Thailand trained to rip wristwatches off tourists for their masters. Except his master wants my skin...
___
Through the scope, slowly blinking grey-green eyes and sunken cheeks splattered with large spots appeared close enough to touch. The zipper on her windbreaker had burst open revealing irregular shaped spots on her stomach and as he watched, golden leaves spun down onto her red curls. She’s been on the road as long as me, he thought.
___
I’m exhausted. If it wasn’t for you, my love, I’d let them skin me. Breeding programs like the one that impregnated her had created larger, darker, more leopard-like freckles in the MC1R carrier population, yet the demand was always outpacing the supply.
___
Josh trained the laser on her forearm. Already tagged. The Trac-B read her bounty at 100,000Q, but the burn rate on Spotties was so high that the baby was worth ten times that. Josh loaded a dart and was easing forward on the trigger when he felt a wire snake around his neck and squeeze.
______________
Sadie sprinted to where the boy was clawing at the slowly constricting garrote. When she tapped thumb to forefinger, the snare ceased tightening. She tossed his rifle then squatted over him.

He’s at the end of his run, she thought, taking inventory. Face crisscrossed with scars. Nose broken multiple times. She fished into his mouth, finding better quality teeth than expected and no wisdom teeth. Seventeen, maybe eighteen. He’d had some success as a tracker too. Nickel-sized bonus stamps crawled up both forearms covered with the revolting liquid plastic skin replacement.

“Look, Trackie,” she whispered, “I’ll be long gone by the time the signal wanes and this necklace…” she flicked the metal rope and his eyes popped an inch wider “drops off. You’ll be dead by then. Do you understand?”

His lips were turning blue, but he quit pulling at the snare and flashed a thumbs up sign.

“Or…I’ll give you 10,000 quid to take me over the Divide unseen.” She gestured to the zoomers above, just visible through the trees. “And my guess is you’ve run these hills before.” She looked at her watch. “You’ve got about thirty seconds left.”

He stared up at her, calculating his options, then nodded. She gave the split signal and the snare dropped off, snaked through the leaves and coiled around her ankle.

“What’s your name, Goldie?”

“Josh.” He sounded hoarse, but not angry.

“Sadie,” she responded. “Let me know when you’ve got your wind.”

He bent over one knee, coughing and lacing up his skimmers. A thick line of bruising cut across his neck and his right eye was blood red. He was twice her height, lanky and unintimidating. Though they were roughly the same age, he seemed younger.

After a few seconds, he circled his forefinger.

“Nope. Call your Wheat first. And make it good.”

“Yeah. Ok.” He coughed again then hit the comm on his Trac-B.

“Markin”

“Wha?”

“She’s gone,” Josh said, adding, “Wasn’t a Spottie anyway.”

“Whaddyou mean gone? You lose her or drop her?”

“Markin, she was a Teaser! I dropped her, okay? On my way in.”

“Josh! You lazy piece of shit. Find me something or your old ass is on carving from now on!” Markin disconnected.

Josh looked down at Sadie, one eyebrow raised.

“How long before he comes looking?”

“Won’t probably. He’ll think I’ve been poached, not that you’re a…uh...” Josh trailed off.

“Spottie. You can say it.”

He had the good manners to look down.

She sighed. “Alright, you’re in the lead. Let’s go.”

He kicked off headed north, his long strides quickly outpacing hers. Without his cough, she would never have heard him -- he knew just where to place his feet.
____
Josh slowed to a trot.

“Sadie, we’ve got a drop coming up.”

Oh, thank God, she thought. She dropped her head, pulling in lungfuls of cool air.

“You’re as loud as a boar,” Josh complained.

“Shut it, Goldie! I’m not paying you to talk.” She gasped between each word, which took the venom out of it.

The break in the forest revealed what used to be an overpass and was now a maw of rusting street cars. Josh straddled a metal girder, legs dangling. Sadie flipped up her hood.

“Where are we?”

He took a swig of water, wiping his mouth on his sleeve. “Pretty sure we’re just east of Advance. Should be signage below.”

Josh suddenly reached over her head, grabbing for the rifle.

Shit!

She rolled away, reaching under her arm and scrambling to her feet, a curved knife thrust towards his chest.

The rifle raised between his hands, he shouted, “Woah, Sadie, relax! I just need the scope, okay?

Sadie held her ground as he stripped it off, dropping the rifle at her feet with a roll of his eyes. He climbed down as far as he could, then tucked and dropped onto the hood of a wrecked BMW. Scanning under the collapsed bridge, the signage was gone. Must have been attached to the overpass.

A billboard for Harry Winston still stood. A blonde in her thirties, elbows balanced on a white tablecloth, flashed a broad smile. She wore emerald earrings and matching twisted skin bangles. Each an inch wide, the skin was a striped mix of mocha, Spottie and pale. The uneven surface of the bracelets were the only indication that underneath the skin was not wood or plastic, but bone.
___
“Anything?”

“No. But we can’t be that far from Buck Creek and the Sierras are just on the other side.”
He paused to pull long strips of rubber out of his shirt, “Let’s try for the creek by nightfall. You good?”

She nodded and smiled, stifling a sharp pain in her side.
___
“Where’d you learn how to make these?” she asked.

He sat in the dirt, straddling her bare foot, muttering under his breath.

“What?”

“Your feet are swollen,” he said, dark eyes squinting up at her.

“So….?”

“If the swelling gets worse...”

“Listen, I didn’t…”

He cut her off. “Yeah, I know. But you’re scaring the game away. I can’t make you quality skimmers, but these will help.”

“Fine.” she said, reddening. “Make it quick.”

“Of course, your highness.” He responded, the corners of his lips curling up.

She didn’t appreciate the gesture until she ran again. He’d jammed cross-sections of rubber into cuts in the soles. It not only made the boots quiet, but also wider and therefore infinitely more comfortable.

They made it to the valley well before mid-day and for once, she didn’t immediately kick her boots off, but walked along the ridge scouting for a smooth rock. He was laying back among the late-blooming wildflowers eating jerky and squinting up at the sun when she plopped down beside him.

“You’re going to choke and go blind,” she said.

He laughed, nearly choking, and re-crossed his long legs at the ankles, snapping off another bite.

She leaned forward as far as she could, coming up shy of her toes. Hello there, my love, she thought. Then she pulled up the back of her shirt and circled the clean side of the rock on her lower back, grunting with pleasure.
_____
“Sadie?”

“Unh?” she responded, eyes closed.

“Do you know how it happened?”

“What?”

“The… you know… the skin trade.” He turned towards her, shaggy hair falling over his eyes and tucked his knees into his chest.

Hmm… makes sense I guess, she thought. Wheat take kids as payment for Rock-addicted parents. Goldens are raised like dogs – given food and shelter, taught to track, but not much more.

“Yeah.” She answered finally. “I know some.”

“Tell me?” His earnest face reminded her of Noah. It had been weeks since she thought about her brother. His chubby fists tied down, screaming her name. The skin peeling off his tiny fingertips. And all the blood...

“Um…first there were piercings, where needles would pass through.” Sadie revealed her popped bellybutton and mimed piercing it. “And towards the end, the holes got bigger. My uncle Rami showed me vid of a man in India passing an entire snake through a hole in his ear.”

Josh rolled an earlobe between his fingers, bewildered.

“Then tattooing,” she continued. “No area was sacred. People inked their eyelids and inside their ears. They…”

“Have you seen Malenas?” Josh interrupted, sitting up.

“No?”

“They run Skittle across the border. Malenas have a tattoo…” Josh pointed to the center of his tongue, “…of a purple eye. I’ve seen the farms...”

“Does anyone still buy farmed skin?”

“Some, yeah. For orange Skittle, they force-feed the kids pumpkin puree. For green, they strap copper plates on. And for XP, they’re kept in the dark for years.”

Sadie shivered. At least I can run…

She continued, “When 3-D tattooing began, my mom was little. They built a pyramid on my grandfather’s back between his shoulder blades. When he fell asleep on the couch watching television, she curled up in its shade. The needle injected ink and GDF5, a cartilage-producing protein. People made horns, tails and of course, parts of their anatomy bigger too.”

Josh laughed. For all the trauma to his face, was good-looking in a goofy, coltish way.

“Some of the old-timers still have them. I once saw a man with an octopus on his head. The blue and grey tentacles climbing down the sides of his face formed aquatic sideburns. The irises were made of jade, sewn into eyes eight inches above his own.”

“3-D removal creates a bloody mess. Grafted skin was the solution…”

“Why not just use the pink?” Josh pointed to the slick arm propping up his head. The shiny plastic resembled the underside of a frisbee.

“Josh, you know why. Neuroskin is nasty. You’ve seen a Pigpen, right?”

People who sold all of their skin -- Pinkies -- were universally hooked on K-rock. Cops called their hangouts “pigpens” from the look of their tangled pink limbs on filthy mattresses, eyes rolled back, telltale white haze hanging in the air.

He changed the subject. “Do you need to cross the Divide?”

“Yeah. Why?”

“Kaweah Gap is steep. It’s the lowest point in the range, but...”

She winced and nodded.

“What if we go southwest into Three Rivers?”

“How am I walking into town?”

He tugged on her hood. “Your uh…” He struggled for the right word. Freckles. They’re called freckles… “freckles will be tougher, but a clay paste...”

She stood up. “Clay paste? For these?” She pulled her curls back so he got a good look.

“Okay, okay.” He put his palms up. “I’ll skim into Three Rivers, hit an R-X and grab proper coverup and dye.”

“You don’t think I've thought of that?” She struggled to speak calmly. “They scan you, Trackie. You probably have a freeze or two on your tag, right? And they scan you on the way in, so you can’t lift it either.”

“Fine. I’ll claim your tag and walk you in. Put the snare on.”

“Josh! You know what I’m worth, which is nothing compared to the baby. The Wheat will have me on a carving board in under an hour. We’re wasting time. I’m paying you to get me over that.”

She stabbed her finger at the snow-cap behind him marking the Divide, her arm shaking on the way down.

“And you know damn well you can’t make the climb,” he said softly.

I’ll make it, she thought, rubbing her belly, but will you, my love?
____
52
17
23
Juice
327 reads
Load 23 Comments
Login to post comments.
Donate coins to AlSalehi.
Juice
Cancel
Simon & Schuster is one of the world’s leading publishers and we are always looking for fresh new voices. Write a story, chapter, or essay about whatever you like. The 50 best entries will be announced by Prose and read by our editorial staff for consideration.
Written by AlSalehi in portal Simon & Schuster

By and Bye

she showers me from above with falling Spades,

having then gift-wrapped the stems with little Hearts,

a great public service delivered in shades

of now Red and Black poison injected darts.

she’s masked as a Queen Holding multiple Aces,

Bluffing her bosses under multiple Faces.

Diamonds of wisdom she pretends to display,

when Diamonds to Cut is the truth of her Play.

but if all she believes is no feign then no Gain,

my question is this… at what Cost and whose pain?

Club members pleased as she slanders, applaud -

the Clubbing of a young man's Heart, oh God - -

please guide my Hand to Action flight, not fight,

not Gambling my virtue, out of spite,

against a sinister soul's wretched plight.

help me not Poke her with your Spades of great light,

Win or Lose...Flip my dream Turned nightmare tonight.

I’m now struggling with this motion to let live or expire

as a resolution that is urgent and morbidly dire-

it was just on the floor, now on the pan, and soon to The Friar,

as His second is needed, to go All-in this, trial by fire.

Father, let it be in my Cards, to do what is just...

and help me to cremate, this invoice, for poison lust.

Lord, make me not Risk laying to waste,

this old bully from a schoolyard fight,

give me purpose and heavenly might,

for a cause you deem worthy and chaste.

consider the nights I’ve spent digging her ditch,

please honor the time that I've lost to this witch,

whose rage’s Raised from an emotional glitch,

of jealousy Folded in a Single stitch.

I’m hereby Knocking to Check on slaying this snitch,

calling Azrael to Push the dumbwaiter switch.

though a 50/50 Chance is Blindly Set by your Crown,

I pray that today, both of the Arrows, for her, Show Down!

nay, help make me the hero and this order delay…

just protect me from evil as I kneel and I pray:

“our horsemen, who art in Heaven, now summoned and nigh--

pass, by,

pass, by.”

and now Four Suited stallions, Flush with Black Hearts

neigh loudly but voiceless, in front of their Carts.

Marking her Players who all vote as One,

to majority Counts of 4 to 1.

alas I’m human at the end of day

so I ask you, Yahweh, to end this decay.

I wish not to Cash-out on her Last sigh,

no reins or noose, to soon knot-up and Tie.

I’ve good left in me and I wish to try

asking your horsemen for a pass to Buy - -

a way,

away,

from this old passerby.

I'll pay her Ante across the River Styx,

Chips sprung from her eye sockets with reaper sticks

and then stuffed in her Pockets with fire picks.

trotting the Odds at all Even they cry:

‘All Bets are Final to live or let die’!

Swords at the ready and ready to fly,

riders are Shuffling to Deal upon High,

sickles now Flopping like hail from the sky,

Turning her tombstone with acid & lye,

the River’s mouth’s Showing halva and rye –

good night fine horsemen, hello and goodbye.

just pardon one Last thing,

as a postscript, my King…

come Hell or High purpose in this fog of clear sight,

I present to your horsemen, this kicker tonight - -

pass her by /

pass her, bye.

Copyright © 1986-2017

Al Salehi

All Rights Reserved

50
11
47
Juice
531 reads
Donate coins to AlSalehi.
Juice
Cancel
Simon & Schuster is one of the world’s leading publishers and we are always looking for fresh new voices. Write a story, chapter, or essay about whatever you like. The 50 best entries will be announced by Prose and read by our editorial staff for consideration.
Written by AlSalehi in portal Simon & Schuster
By and Bye
she showers me from above with falling Spades,
having then gift-wrapped the stems with little Hearts,
a great public service delivered in shades
of now Red and Black poison injected darts.

she’s masked as a Queen Holding multiple Aces,
Bluffing her bosses under multiple Faces.

Diamonds of wisdom she pretends to display,
when Diamonds to Cut is the truth of her Play.

but if all she believes is no feign then no Gain,
my question is this… at what Cost and whose pain?

Club members pleased as she slanders, applaud -
the Clubbing of a young man's Heart, oh God - -

please guide my Hand to Action flight, not fight,
not Gambling my virtue, out of spite,
against a sinister soul's wretched plight.

help me not Poke her with your Spades of great light,
Win or Lose...Flip my dream Turned nightmare tonight.

I’m now struggling with this motion to let live or expire
as a resolution that is urgent and morbidly dire-
it was just on the floor, now on the pan, and soon to The Friar,
as His second is needed, to go All-in this, trial by fire.

Father, let it be in my Cards, to do what is just...
and help me to cremate, this invoice, for poison lust.

Lord, make me not Risk laying to waste,
this old bully from a schoolyard fight,
give me purpose and heavenly might,
for a cause you deem worthy and chaste.

consider the nights I’ve spent digging her ditch,
please honor the time that I've lost to this witch,
whose rage’s Raised from an emotional glitch,
of jealousy Folded in a Single stitch.

I’m hereby Knocking to Check on slaying this snitch,
calling Azrael to Push the dumbwaiter switch.

though a 50/50 Chance is Blindly Set by your Crown,
I pray that today, both of the Arrows, for her, Show Down!

nay, help make me the hero and this order delay…
just protect me from evil as I kneel and I pray:
“our horsemen, who art in Heaven, now summoned and nigh--
pass, by,
pass, by.”

and now Four Suited stallions, Flush with Black Hearts
neigh loudly but voiceless, in front of their Carts.

Marking her Players who all vote as One,
to majority Counts of 4 to 1.

alas I’m human at the end of day
so I ask you, Yahweh, to end this decay.

I wish not to Cash-out on her Last sigh,
no reins or noose, to soon knot-up and Tie.
I’ve good left in me and I wish to try
asking your horsemen for a pass to Buy - -
a way,
away,
from this old passerby.

I'll pay her Ante across the River Styx,
Chips sprung from her eye sockets with reaper sticks
and then stuffed in her Pockets with fire picks.

trotting the Odds at all Even they cry:
‘All Bets are Final to live or let die’!
Swords at the ready and ready to fly,
riders are Shuffling to Deal upon High,
sickles now Flopping like hail from the sky,
Turning her tombstone with acid & lye,
the River’s mouth’s Showing halva and rye –

good night fine horsemen, hello and goodbye.

just pardon one Last thing,
as a postscript, my King…

come Hell or High purpose in this fog of clear sight,
I present to your horsemen, this kicker tonight - -

pass her by /
pass her, bye.


Copyright © 1986-2017
Al Salehi
All Rights Reserved
#fantasy  #scifi  #fiction  #nonfiction  #romance  #horror  #adventure  #education  #poetry  #science  #philosophy  #mystery  #film  #prose  #challenge  #prosechallenge  #politics  #spirituality  #news  #culture  #war  #lyrics  #opinion  #sorrynotsorry  #Itslit  #getlit  #SimonSchuster  #simonandschuster  #poker  #artofwar  #SimonSchusterChallenge  #internalstruggle 
50
11
47
Juice
531 reads
Load 47 Comments
Login to post comments.
Donate coins to Jumotki.
Juice
Cancel
Written by Jumotki

Late to Work

My

index

finger

pokes

the bridge

of my nose

pushing back

the glasses

that I

left

at

home

47
11
15
Juice
143 reads
Donate coins to Jumotki.
Juice
Cancel
Written by Jumotki
Late to Work
My
index
finger
pokes
the bridge
of my nose
pushing back
the glasses
that I
left
at
home
47
11
15
Juice
143 reads
Load 15 Comments
Login to post comments.
Donate coins to Prose.
Juice
Cancel
Written by Prose in portal Prose

Later, Chris.

     Rome. 2016, March. Hadn't seen him since the '90s. Drunk on being away from the States, drunk on red and white wine, and a stomach gorged with in-house pasta, bread, and anything else I could get my hands on. Alley, restaurant. Trevi fountain checked off. Young Italian girls waving Americans in to their restaurants. A brothel feel. I want to go into the story about the two Italians fighting over the check. The owner and a drunk patron. I want to go into the gelato after, the air of Rome, the bricks of the alleys. But I can't. Rare to see this profile written in first person, but this is different. Like Rome is different. Lost there. Must gaze upon the Pantheon during the first rays of moonlight. 

Lost there. Around a blind corner I nearly walked into Cornell. The man was tall. I'm 6'1 and he loomed over me. We glanced at each other, I registered the situation, and kept moving. GPS called me a moron in code, so I followed Cornell and his wife, and their little girl. I wasn't listening but I was. He was telling his girl about how life is in Italy. I heard, "In Italy..." then the crowd around us absorbed the rest. A few people took fast second looks, and then went back to their tables, their drinks, their own trips and lives.

     In Rome no one cares who you are. 

     Quite a beautiful feeling.    

     Rome is different.

    Crossing back toward where I had to go. Losing light. The Sun becoming the Moon, and I'm standing there then, staring at the street that I would cross to my hotel, to give up, but I'm feeling too fine, and I'm in Rome. I'm in fucking ROME. Not to sound incredulous. I put my phone to my ear to hear the directions, looked down the street. Cornell. Giving me a skeptical but not-so-sure stare, a sideways check. It would appear I was following them, but I wasn't. It didn't bother me. I laughed ahead. Rome is different. He disappeared down the street with his family, and I realized I'd been going the right way the whole time. Turned back, walked and thought about it. I could have had a conversation with him, I could have dropped one name. His parents lived next door to my friend's parents here in West Seattle. He'd skated with Cornell, and once told me he and his parents would watch Cornell mowing his parents' lawn from upstairs, even after Soundgarden took off. We could have had a conversation away from the music, the words, just two dudes from here laughing about the suddenness of meeting in Rome with such far-reaching connections to the past. What stopped me from shaking his hand? I would like to fall back on ego, but it was only ego in the sense that I didn't want to be a fan, a number, even with a rare connection. 

     But the truth is I am a fan. And though I don't believe in regretting something you've already done, I should have shaken his hand. I didn't have to tell him that his lyrics were brilliant, his voice one of the most distinctive in all remembered time, or any of that bullshit people like him, the few of them, hear and have to deflect or appropriate when they're out in the world. I also simply didn't want to interrupt him or his family while they walked in peace as the Moon rose over Rome. 

     

     I found the Pantheon, young moonlight. Breath stolen. 

     This morning I awoke to a text from my buddy, Dave. Four words and an abbreviation: Dude, Chris Cornell died. WTF?

     Tap google. 52. Suspected suicide. No matter, he's gone. They all go, they don't live long enough to see themselves shine like the rest see them. And they don't care. Sitting here now, blasting Louder Than Love, and sending my best thoughts to his family. 

     Bukowski once said in a letter, "Death isn't a problem for the deceased, it's a problem for the living." Or something like that. Looking back on the dead artists of the last few years, Cornell hits pretty hard. 52 years old.

     Much love to his people. Hands All Over just started. I need more coffee, and to kiss my dogs. 

     Outside it's grey and bright and warm. 

     

     

     

46
16
12
Juice
662 reads
Donate coins to Prose.
Juice
Cancel
Written by Prose in portal Prose
Later, Chris.
     Rome. 2016, March. Hadn't seen him since the '90s. Drunk on being away from the States, drunk on red and white wine, and a stomach gorged with in-house pasta, bread, and anything else I could get my hands on. Alley, restaurant. Trevi fountain checked off. Young Italian girls waving Americans in to their restaurants. A brothel feel. I want to go into the story about the two Italians fighting over the check. The owner and a drunk patron. I want to go into the gelato after, the air of Rome, the bricks of the alleys. But I can't. Rare to see this profile written in first person, but this is different. Like Rome is different. Lost there. Must gaze upon the Pantheon during the first rays of moonlight. 
Lost there. Around a blind corner I nearly walked into Cornell. The man was tall. I'm 6'1 and he loomed over me. We glanced at each other, I registered the situation, and kept moving. GPS called me a moron in code, so I followed Cornell and his wife, and their little girl. I wasn't listening but I was. He was telling his girl about how life is in Italy. I heard, "In Italy..." then the crowd around us absorbed the rest. A few people took fast second looks, and then went back to their tables, their drinks, their own trips and lives.
     In Rome no one cares who you are. 
     Quite a beautiful feeling.    
     Rome is different.
    Crossing back toward where I had to go. Losing light. The Sun becoming the Moon, and I'm standing there then, staring at the street that I would cross to my hotel, to give up, but I'm feeling too fine, and I'm in Rome. I'm in fucking ROME. Not to sound incredulous. I put my phone to my ear to hear the directions, looked down the street. Cornell. Giving me a skeptical but not-so-sure stare, a sideways check. It would appear I was following them, but I wasn't. It didn't bother me. I laughed ahead. Rome is different. He disappeared down the street with his family, and I realized I'd been going the right way the whole time. Turned back, walked and thought about it. I could have had a conversation with him, I could have dropped one name. His parents lived next door to my friend's parents here in West Seattle. He'd skated with Cornell, and once told me he and his parents would watch Cornell mowing his parents' lawn from upstairs, even after Soundgarden took off. We could have had a conversation away from the music, the words, just two dudes from here laughing about the suddenness of meeting in Rome with such far-reaching connections to the past. What stopped me from shaking his hand? I would like to fall back on ego, but it was only ego in the sense that I didn't want to be a fan, a number, even with a rare connection. 
     But the truth is I am a fan. And though I don't believe in regretting something you've already done, I should have shaken his hand. I didn't have to tell him that his lyrics were brilliant, his voice one of the most distinctive in all remembered time, or any of that bullshit people like him, the few of them, hear and have to deflect or appropriate when they're out in the world. I also simply didn't want to interrupt him or his family while they walked in peace as the Moon rose over Rome. 
     
     I found the Pantheon, young moonlight. Breath stolen. 

     This morning I awoke to a text from my buddy, Dave. Four words and an abbreviation: Dude, Chris Cornell died. WTF?
     Tap google. 52. Suspected suicide. No matter, he's gone. They all go, they don't live long enough to see themselves shine like the rest see them. And they don't care. Sitting here now, blasting Louder Than Love, and sending my best thoughts to his family. 
     Bukowski once said in a letter, "Death isn't a problem for the deceased, it's a problem for the living." Or something like that. Looking back on the dead artists of the last few years, Cornell hits pretty hard. 52 years old.

     Much love to his people. Hands All Over just started. I need more coffee, and to kiss my dogs. 

     Outside it's grey and bright and warm. 
     
     

     
#culture 
46
16
12
Juice
662 reads
Load 12 Comments
Login to post comments.
Advertisement  (turn off)
Donate coins to katiepezzutto.
Juice
Cancel
Simon & Schuster is one of the world’s leading publishers and we are always looking for fresh new voices. Write a story, chapter, or essay about whatever you like. The 50 best entries will be announced by Prose and read by our editorial staff for consideration.
Written by katiepezzutto in portal Simon & Schuster

Karis' Secret

   I can be obsessive but I’m not one to easily become infatuated. Despite that fact, Adrian Loose’s gorgeous hazels leave a searing impression. It’s been over an hour since the thirty-year-old rocker and I first locked eyes yet there he remains in my mind. Forever embedded as waves of mesmerizing gold, green and auburn paradise. The colors weave through my sparking imagination and send a deep buzz through my whole body. Worst timing ever.

   All I want is a successful show. To make that reality, focus is the only lover I need. Besides, Adrian is dating a diamond studded movie star, lucky her, lucky him.

I turn to check the digital clock on the back wall. Showtime was in less than ten minutes. I breathe in deeply and take a glimpse back at my fellow Victoria Secret angels. Dark waves, blonde curls, high cheekbones, slender bodies, toned muscles, none a day over thirty. Some sway their hips to an imaginary beat, others pop out their legs, toss their manes and snap streams of endless selfies. Plastic. As much as I want to ignore the fact, that’s exactly what we are. A parade of contrived perfection, the earthly definition of an angel, the closest to flawless mankind can attain. Women envy us, men lust after us. Millions look to us as though we are heaven come to earth, yet our stories are not fairy tales. Perching on a flat, cold, hard pedestal can hurt. Yes, we hurt. We sacrifice and pay dearly and yep, we bleed. I know this for a fact. My right toe is gushing as we speak. I bend down to conceal it and stop the bleeding. Monica Snow, fellow angel and drama queen of the century, gasps a lot louder than necessary.

   “Kare, what happened to your toe? Ow!”

   “It’s nothing. I probably just bumped it.”

   “It needs to be wrapped!” I start to protest, it has been a climb to the top and I don’t want to cause trouble. The only piece of advice my mother, an ex-supermodel, gave me was to never leave a producer with a reason to give me the boot. Much to my mother’s chagrin, my actor father was a lot more open about the ins of showbiz. He told me to be kind, sweet, compliant and do what the director of the show wanted. Always. Well, so far so good. But that perfect image was about to be ruined by a bikini clad string bean. Monica waved her bedazzled arm in the air.

   “First aid!”

   “Monica, please. I don’t…”

She ignores me, her eyes wide as she strains to get someone’s attention. “First aid! First aid! Good, oh good! Here comes someone.”

   I plant my hands on my hips and glare. “My God, Monica, I’m fine. Please!”

Her blue eyes turned icy as she backed into a circle of other girls. “Woah, sorry.” I turn away from the eyes watching me and face the stage. I want to apologize. That came out so wrong, no matter how hard I tried to fit the perfect mold, it never worked. Mom was right, I should have stayed out. Even though I finally looked like I belonged, the industry wasn’t made for me.

A woman with a blinking blue headpiece rushes in to inspect my foot. Her name tag reads “Patricia”. A loud, voice hollers from somewhere backstage, “alright ladies, five minutes before show time! This is it! Five minutes!” Patricia’s sharp eyes dart from my foot to my face.

   “What the hell happened?”

   “Not sure.” Yeah, that was a lie. I knew. The super high heels they forced me to wear at the five-hour rehearsal had rubbed my flesh chicken skin raw. When they handed me today’s pair of crème-du-la-torture I didn’t dare protest. I slipped them on and “boom” the scab popped off. The woman’s tinted lips pull back, her eyebrows lift but not too far. Botox. Plastic.

   She pats down her silky pockets. “I’ll try to find a see-through bandage.”

The voice hollers again. “Ladies who need help with wardrobe, just let Patricia know, she’s back!”

   “Dammit Clark.” Patricia shoved a chunk of choppy blond hair behind her ear and took off in a whirlwind of expensive fabric. The smell of exotic flowers and dark notes of vanilla tangle with the scent of hairspray and heated hair. I glanced at the line of Victoria Secret models standing a couple paces behind me.

   Most keep their eyes closed. Their wings flutter as they draw their breaths in slowly, calming themselves. Was it true that the immortal could be nerve-wracked? Did goddesses work hard to earn respect and work to keep it? Apparently. We had sacrificed freedom, bared our bodies, strut for men three times our age and here we all are. Chosen by the prestigious, lauded individuals who deemed us worthy enough to walk the God ordained show of fashion. It was our time to shine, to show the world how beautiful, perfect and valuable we are. To make normal women feel like they don’t measure up like they aren’t worth a man’s attention. Ironically, I feel the furthest thing from an unshakeable goddess.    I despise the person I have become, beautiful on the outside but inwardly so unsatisfied. Apparently, plastic wings can’t hoist me above and away from the hideous imperfection dwelling within. My mouth is dry. My stomach is twisting into thick knots. Nausea sweeps over me in waves. I can’t help but wonder what the point of all of this really is. The voice screams again. So shrill.

   “Two minutes!”

Patricia books it towards me, almost knocking over two crew members in the process.          “Take the shoe off!” She hollers from a distance. I hesitate. Rude. She stands in front of me and looks up at me, her face beat red.

   “I’m sorry. But please hurry. Hurry!” I step out of my stringy shoe and wait as she administers the bandage. The lights above us dim slowly. Waves of anticipating screams rise from the audience. Millions would be watching at home, their eyes glued to computer and television screens. Nausea. I can hear my heart in my ears. A loud thumping sound washes over the stadium, all falls silent. I hold my breath. Thump. Thump. Thump.

   “Ladies and gentlemen, Adrian Loose!”

Adrian’s smooth voice trills as it booms through the speakers. “Just shoot for my heart if it feels right… one life baby it’s yours better do it right.” A suited man stands beside me, black earpiece tightly wrapped around the outer lobe. His beefy hands press into the ear piece. My foot aches as Patricia finishes stretching the bandage over the wounded area. The suited man speaks.

   “Karis Burdett, you’re on. In three, two, one.” I launch myself away from Patricia and towards the runway. Nope. My ankle dips to the right. I quickly snap it back. The cameras probably caught that. I beam despite the pain and give the audience one less thing to criticize later. Opening the show was a huge deal that many would kill for. I needed to pull my performance together with the cards I have left.

The main stage tonight far outshines how it had looked at rehearsal. Awash with blue, purple and green, the colors of the sea and decorated with large, glass pillars. Utopian, Atlantis. A place with no wars or fighting, no disease or disputed presidencies. Only the best of the best rule here, the stuff of legend, the immortal. At least that’s what the tabloids, star news, and fashion lines scream. Too bad the average person couldn’t plunge beyond the aquamarine mascaraed and into the ocean filled with plastic, plastic, plastic. This deep-sea world is so different from what I imagined. Yet the ambiance is still just as enthralling as the day I started. So confusing.

   The handsome pop-star stands at the back of the stage, his gaze washes over me as I strut forward. He locks eyes with me again. I can’t help but be taken aback. The heated buzz I felt an hour ago, returns. It amplifies as he walks towards me and reaches for my hand. I take it. The crowd roars. Rumors will be buzzing tomorrow but who cares? This is show business. This is what the media wants. Publicity is how we make the money.

Adrian’s voice dips dangerously low then soars to new heights. “Girl, I found you. Finally, you’re here… shooting to those stars, why don’t we disappear into the night, together.” As we walk together, I notice his hands are warm and soft. Security. Something I hadn’t had since dad left. But Adrian has a girlfriend! How dare I hold his hand! He releases me as I near the end of the runway. I pause at the end, toss my glittery dress, twist my hips right then left, seek approval from the crowd. Am I good enough? Am I good enough? Cameras snap continuously. My eyes wander over the packed seats, gauging expressions. My attention settles on a young girl with a long ponytail. Her eyes wide.

   She reminds me so much of me at that age. Innocent, young, unsuspecting and unaware of the dangers of the stage. I flash a smile in her direction, wave like a queen then strut back down the walk. The crowd erupts with applause. I feel the warmth of million of eyes as they scan me up and down. Adrian winks. I flash a bright grin. The buzzing continues. I disappear behind the curtain, enshrouded by the lie of perfection. If only I could disappear from myself.

44
18
7
Juice
495 reads
Donate coins to katiepezzutto.
Juice
Cancel
Simon & Schuster is one of the world’s leading publishers and we are always looking for fresh new voices. Write a story, chapter, or essay about whatever you like. The 50 best entries will be announced by Prose and read by our editorial staff for consideration.
Written by katiepezzutto in portal Simon & Schuster
Karis' Secret
   I can be obsessive but I’m not one to easily become infatuated. Despite that fact, Adrian Loose’s gorgeous hazels leave a searing impression. It’s been over an hour since the thirty-year-old rocker and I first locked eyes yet there he remains in my mind. Forever embedded as waves of mesmerizing gold, green and auburn paradise. The colors weave through my sparking imagination and send a deep buzz through my whole body. Worst timing ever.
   All I want is a successful show. To make that reality, focus is the only lover I need. Besides, Adrian is dating a diamond studded movie star, lucky her, lucky him.
I turn to check the digital clock on the back wall. Showtime was in less than ten minutes. I breathe in deeply and take a glimpse back at my fellow Victoria Secret angels. Dark waves, blonde curls, high cheekbones, slender bodies, toned muscles, none a day over thirty. Some sway their hips to an imaginary beat, others pop out their legs, toss their manes and snap streams of endless selfies. Plastic. As much as I want to ignore the fact, that’s exactly what we are. A parade of contrived perfection, the earthly definition of an angel, the closest to flawless mankind can attain. Women envy us, men lust after us. Millions look to us as though we are heaven come to earth, yet our stories are not fairy tales. Perching on a flat, cold, hard pedestal can hurt. Yes, we hurt. We sacrifice and pay dearly and yep, we bleed. I know this for a fact. My right toe is gushing as we speak. I bend down to conceal it and stop the bleeding. Monica Snow, fellow angel and drama queen of the century, gasps a lot louder than necessary.
   “Kare, what happened to your toe? Ow!”
   “It’s nothing. I probably just bumped it.”
   “It needs to be wrapped!” I start to protest, it has been a climb to the top and I don’t want to cause trouble. The only piece of advice my mother, an ex-supermodel, gave me was to never leave a producer with a reason to give me the boot. Much to my mother’s chagrin, my actor father was a lot more open about the ins of showbiz. He told me to be kind, sweet, compliant and do what the director of the show wanted. Always. Well, so far so good. But that perfect image was about to be ruined by a bikini clad string bean. Monica waved her bedazzled arm in the air.
   “First aid!”
   “Monica, please. I don’t…”
She ignores me, her eyes wide as she strains to get someone’s attention. “First aid! First aid! Good, oh good! Here comes someone.”
   I plant my hands on my hips and glare. “My God, Monica, I’m fine. Please!”
Her blue eyes turned icy as she backed into a circle of other girls. “Woah, sorry.” I turn away from the eyes watching me and face the stage. I want to apologize. That came out so wrong, no matter how hard I tried to fit the perfect mold, it never worked. Mom was right, I should have stayed out. Even though I finally looked like I belonged, the industry wasn’t made for me.
A woman with a blinking blue headpiece rushes in to inspect my foot. Her name tag reads “Patricia”. A loud, voice hollers from somewhere backstage, “alright ladies, five minutes before show time! This is it! Five minutes!” Patricia’s sharp eyes dart from my foot to my face.
   “What the hell happened?”
   “Not sure.” Yeah, that was a lie. I knew. The super high heels they forced me to wear at the five-hour rehearsal had rubbed my flesh chicken skin raw. When they handed me today’s pair of crème-du-la-torture I didn’t dare protest. I slipped them on and “boom” the scab popped off. The woman’s tinted lips pull back, her eyebrows lift but not too far. Botox. Plastic.
   She pats down her silky pockets. “I’ll try to find a see-through bandage.”
The voice hollers again. “Ladies who need help with wardrobe, just let Patricia know, she’s back!”
   “Dammit Clark.” Patricia shoved a chunk of choppy blond hair behind her ear and took off in a whirlwind of expensive fabric. The smell of exotic flowers and dark notes of vanilla tangle with the scent of hairspray and heated hair. I glanced at the line of Victoria Secret models standing a couple paces behind me.
   Most keep their eyes closed. Their wings flutter as they draw their breaths in slowly, calming themselves. Was it true that the immortal could be nerve-wracked? Did goddesses work hard to earn respect and work to keep it? Apparently. We had sacrificed freedom, bared our bodies, strut for men three times our age and here we all are. Chosen by the prestigious, lauded individuals who deemed us worthy enough to walk the God ordained show of fashion. It was our time to shine, to show the world how beautiful, perfect and valuable we are. To make normal women feel like they don’t measure up like they aren’t worth a man’s attention. Ironically, I feel the furthest thing from an unshakeable goddess.    I despise the person I have become, beautiful on the outside but inwardly so unsatisfied. Apparently, plastic wings can’t hoist me above and away from the hideous imperfection dwelling within. My mouth is dry. My stomach is twisting into thick knots. Nausea sweeps over me in waves. I can’t help but wonder what the point of all of this really is. The voice screams again. So shrill.
   “Two minutes!”
Patricia books it towards me, almost knocking over two crew members in the process.          “Take the shoe off!” She hollers from a distance. I hesitate. Rude. She stands in front of me and looks up at me, her face beat red.
   “I’m sorry. But please hurry. Hurry!” I step out of my stringy shoe and wait as she administers the bandage. The lights above us dim slowly. Waves of anticipating screams rise from the audience. Millions would be watching at home, their eyes glued to computer and television screens. Nausea. I can hear my heart in my ears. A loud thumping sound washes over the stadium, all falls silent. I hold my breath. Thump. Thump. Thump.
   “Ladies and gentlemen, Adrian Loose!”
Adrian’s smooth voice trills as it booms through the speakers. “Just shoot for my heart if it feels right… one life baby it’s yours better do it right.” A suited man stands beside me, black earpiece tightly wrapped around the outer lobe. His beefy hands press into the ear piece. My foot aches as Patricia finishes stretching the bandage over the wounded area. The suited man speaks.
   “Karis Burdett, you’re on. In three, two, one.” I launch myself away from Patricia and towards the runway. Nope. My ankle dips to the right. I quickly snap it back. The cameras probably caught that. I beam despite the pain and give the audience one less thing to criticize later. Opening the show was a huge deal that many would kill for. I needed to pull my performance together with the cards I have left.
The main stage tonight far outshines how it had looked at rehearsal. Awash with blue, purple and green, the colors of the sea and decorated with large, glass pillars. Utopian, Atlantis. A place with no wars or fighting, no disease or disputed presidencies. Only the best of the best rule here, the stuff of legend, the immortal. At least that’s what the tabloids, star news, and fashion lines scream. Too bad the average person couldn’t plunge beyond the aquamarine mascaraed and into the ocean filled with plastic, plastic, plastic. This deep-sea world is so different from what I imagined. Yet the ambiance is still just as enthralling as the day I started. So confusing.
   The handsome pop-star stands at the back of the stage, his gaze washes over me as I strut forward. He locks eyes with me again. I can’t help but be taken aback. The heated buzz I felt an hour ago, returns. It amplifies as he walks towards me and reaches for my hand. I take it. The crowd roars. Rumors will be buzzing tomorrow but who cares? This is show business. This is what the media wants. Publicity is how we make the money.
Adrian’s voice dips dangerously low then soars to new heights. “Girl, I found you. Finally, you’re here… shooting to those stars, why don’t we disappear into the night, together.” As we walk together, I notice his hands are warm and soft. Security. Something I hadn’t had since dad left. But Adrian has a girlfriend! How dare I hold his hand! He releases me as I near the end of the runway. I pause at the end, toss my glittery dress, twist my hips right then left, seek approval from the crowd. Am I good enough? Am I good enough? Cameras snap continuously. My eyes wander over the packed seats, gauging expressions. My attention settles on a young girl with a long ponytail. Her eyes wide.
   She reminds me so much of me at that age. Innocent, young, unsuspecting and unaware of the dangers of the stage. I flash a smile in her direction, wave like a queen then strut back down the walk. The crowd erupts with applause. I feel the warmth of million of eyes as they scan me up and down. Adrian winks. I flash a bright grin. The buzzing continues. I disappear behind the curtain, enshrouded by the lie of perfection. If only I could disappear from myself.
44
18
7
Juice
495 reads
Load 7 Comments
Login to post comments.
Donate coins to Prose.
Juice
Cancel
Written by Prose in portal Prose

White rabbit.

      Austin, 2014. An idea was born into the streets. Two men walking, teeth dry from the ways of liquor. One stares in front. Downtown festival. Talks to the city ahead, but to the one walking next to him.

     I have an idea for an app. 

    Small city, the grey heat. Overcast no match. No hope to burn off the film from the damage last night. Hotel lounge, hair of the dog. The city had grown, and they were strangers now, each waiting to leave there, one by plane, one by car and dog. Talks of Prose., the font. Talks of why it would work, a family the size of a world. Strangers yet not quite. Revolt against apathy. Earned things, lost in paces too fast to retain soul, to keep their light. Drinks and words, the lobby bar turned museum for the old death of the words eaten by technology. A way out through a way back in. 

     We are all here now. 

     Thank you for being here with us. 

     Thank you.  

43
19
10
Juice
378 reads
Donate coins to Prose.
Juice
Cancel
Written by Prose in portal Prose
White rabbit.
      Austin, 2014. An idea was born into the streets. Two men walking, teeth dry from the ways of liquor. One stares in front. Downtown festival. Talks to the city ahead, but to the one walking next to him.
     I have an idea for an app. 
    Small city, the grey heat. Overcast no match. No hope to burn off the film from the damage last night. Hotel lounge, hair of the dog. The city had grown, and they were strangers now, each waiting to leave there, one by plane, one by car and dog. Talks of Prose., the font. Talks of why it would work, a family the size of a world. Strangers yet not quite. Revolt against apathy. Earned things, lost in paces too fast to retain soul, to keep their light. Drinks and words, the lobby bar turned museum for the old death of the words eaten by technology. A way out through a way back in. 
     We are all here now. 
     Thank you for being here with us. 
     Thank you.  
#prose  #culture 
43
19
10
Juice
378 reads
Load 10 Comments
Login to post comments.
Donate coins to Mrjdhyde.
Juice
Cancel
Written by Mrjdhyde

The Simon challenge

The Simon challenge.

I know that many of you are trying to figure out what to write. That's cool, but this is a message for those cats who aren't planning on joining the challenge. You may be saying, “I'm a poet. Simon doesn't want my stuff.” Or even worse “I'm not good enough to compete!”

First off, shut the fuck up. You are good enough.

The most powerful publishing company in the world as allowed us an opportunity. The kingdom is allowing fifty of us unwashed savages to be read by their editorial staff. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Do not pass it up.

You see normally for Simon and Schuster Publishing to read a manuscript, it must have an agent. They do not accept unrepresented talent.

There are caveats to the challenge.

First, You have up to 2,000 words to impress them. So they better be pretty damned good words.

Second, there must be 500 entries in the challenge for it to be accepted by Simon. And that is where you can help.

You can enter, and make sure that we have enough for Simon to take the 50.

So, step up show us what you have. What you think is trash, prose may think is amazing. Remember, you are your worst critic. Step up swing for the fence. Maybe you will be the lucky one.  

42
18
33
Juice
398 reads
Donate coins to Mrjdhyde.
Juice
Cancel
Written by Mrjdhyde
The Simon challenge
The Simon challenge.
I know that many of you are trying to figure out what to write. That's cool, but this is a message for those cats who aren't planning on joining the challenge. You may be saying, “I'm a poet. Simon doesn't want my stuff.” Or even worse “I'm not good enough to compete!”
First off, shut the fuck up. You are good enough.
The most powerful publishing company in the world as allowed us an opportunity. The kingdom is allowing fifty of us unwashed savages to be read by their editorial staff. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Do not pass it up.
You see normally for Simon and Schuster Publishing to read a manuscript, it must have an agent. They do not accept unrepresented talent.
There are caveats to the challenge.
First, You have up to 2,000 words to impress them. So they better be pretty damned good words.
Second, there must be 500 entries in the challenge for it to be accepted by Simon. And that is where you can help.
You can enter, and make sure that we have enough for Simon to take the 50.
So, step up show us what you have. What you think is trash, prose may think is amazing. Remember, you are your worst critic. Step up swing for the fence. Maybe you will be the lucky one.  
42
18
33
Juice
398 reads
Load 33 Comments
Login to post comments.
Donate coins to AlSalehi.
Juice
Cancel
We are a literary agency seeking fresh talent. In 200 words or more, demonstrate your writing talent. We will be in touch with any and all promising participants throughout the rest of this quarter.
Written by AlSalehi

The Poet & The Poem

- Reading between the Lines –

…It’s the Passion,

It’s the Crime,

It’s the Rhythm,

It’s the Rhyme…

Words can speak images in volumes it’s said,

Not actualizing ‘till actually read.

Grasp onto my hands and raise us up swift,

Should I let us down, provide us a lift.

Save our poise from poison and shield me when,

I expose my soul every now and then.

Reflect my aura if I incur chagrin,

Maintain my value if they maintain a grin.

Amaze and amuse the masses before me,

Scheme up a rhyme and then have them adore me.

Multiply with me my expressions to be,

Letting energy flow from my Cells to Chi.

Help me interpret these dreamlike creations,

Parley my visions on verbal foundations.

Empower me when all eyes are upon us,

Trickle off my tongue like wine upon stardust.

Feed me when my esteem becomes meek,

Offer me hope should our Earth grow weak.

Make me believe in potential as prophet,

Prove those who believe shall always have profit.

Become the Fluid in the roots of this tree,

Quenching the yearning of my leaves if thirsty.

Should this be the end, and it’s just you and me…

Let me thank you, my poem, by writing ‘merci'!

For the more I grow, the more grounded I’ll be,

Hence humble and timeless, whilst at your mercy.

So I beg as your servant, hear my last plea,

Bestow me the words that allows them, to see.

Copyright © 1986-2017

Al Salehi

All Rights Reserved

42
19
35
Juice
179 reads
Donate coins to AlSalehi.
Juice
Cancel
We are a literary agency seeking fresh talent. In 200 words or more, demonstrate your writing talent. We will be in touch with any and all promising participants throughout the rest of this quarter.
Written by AlSalehi
The Poet & The Poem
- Reading between the Lines –



…It’s the Passion,
It’s the Crime,
It’s the Rhythm,
It’s the Rhyme…



Words can speak images in volumes it’s said,
Not actualizing ‘till actually read.



Grasp onto my hands and raise us up swift,
Should I let us down, provide us a lift.
Save our poise from poison and shield me when,
I expose my soul every now and then.
Reflect my aura if I incur chagrin,
Maintain my value if they maintain a grin.
Amaze and amuse the masses before me,
Scheme up a rhyme and then have them adore me.
Multiply with me my expressions to be,
Letting energy flow from my Cells to Chi.
Help me interpret these dreamlike creations,
Parley my visions on verbal foundations.
Empower me when all eyes are upon us,
Trickle off my tongue like wine upon stardust.
Feed me when my esteem becomes meek,
Offer me hope should our Earth grow weak.
Make me believe in potential as prophet,
Prove those who believe shall always have profit.
Become the Fluid in the roots of this tree,
Quenching the yearning of my leaves if thirsty.
Should this be the end, and it’s just you and me…
Let me thank you, my poem, by writing ‘merci'!
For the more I grow, the more grounded I’ll be,
Hence humble and timeless, whilst at your mercy.
So I beg as your servant, hear my last plea,
Bestow me the words that allows them, to see.


Copyright © 1986-2017
Al Salehi
All Rights Reserved
#fantasy  #scifi  #fiction  #nonfiction  #romance  #adventure  #education  #poetry  #science  #philosophy  #mystery  #challenge  #politics  #spirituality  #culture  #lyrics  #opinion  #dedication 
42
19
35
Juice
179 reads
Load 35 Comments
Login to post comments.