All who are left here have found a place, although to hide is pointless. That is how fear does, creating empty sidewalks alongside silent streets, with nary a squirrel to dodge, or to dance. Doors remain locked, windows shuttered, though the hour is past ripe for exercise. Only the evergreens sway to see, only the wind whispers to hear; as those two cannot be helped from it. What does it matter if it is not Death himself loitering through the town of Johnsonville, when he who is here behaves so similarly?
If you were to know one thing about me, know that my favorite word is loquacious.
Spiraling downward, fighting my way up, I feel something dragging me back down. I struggle against the pressure of the darkness. I try not to panic but this burning sensation is taking over my body, my mind. I tell myself I need to calm down and take control. My emotions are scattered all around and I try to find some relief by reminding myself that I am in charge. It isn't working. Why can I not get out of this? I close my eyes tightly counting to three in my head. One, two, three........I open my eyes as wide as I can but darkness still surrounds me. As I am about to give up, I see a dim light shining above.
It’s my Birthday!
I was so excited. Sixteen years ago today was the most important day in the history of the world. Well, maybe not for everyone else but it was a pretty important day to me. To celebrate it I had to go to school. Yeah, I know that sucks and while no one would fault me for ditching school on my birthday I decided to go anyway. I'm not really the type to act outside the box.
Of course no one wishes me a happy birthday because no one knows but that's okay. I wake up early and make myself some bacon and eggs. Add a glass of orange juice and it's perfect. I have to make sure my birthday is perfect. It's not like any one else cares it's my birthday. I get through school without incident and after school I take myself bowling. I've been bowling for several years and there's nothing more thrilling than rolling a 16 pound ball down the lane and watching all 10 pins go down in one shot.
After bowling I go home and make myself a burger with sauteed onions and mushrooms. Sure, I have parents and a sister but they are no where to be found. I don't care though because I'm in heaven. After having a piece of ice cream cake with bits of Andy's Mints on it my birthday is complete. My birthday was perfect. I did not need to spend it with anyone. I did just what I wanted.
The Red Bonnet
The floorboards creaked annoyingly as I paced back and forth across the display room of my hat shop, the sunlight streaming in through the open slats of the windows and bouncing catty-wompusly off every surface. I sniffed loudly as a proper English gentleman, my mustache bristling, and simultaneously and silently berated each of the young women that worked dutifully at their stations for not working more efficiently, and the clock for not reaching closing hour soon enough. Both the workers and the clock paid me no mind as they always seemed to do.
Finally, right as the minute hand found its way to the twelve, I reacquainted everyone diligently at work with my voice, as a trumpet reacquaints those asleep with consciousness so early in the morning. Rather used to the daily routine, each young lady finished tidying up their station, gracefully hoped off their stool, and bid their kind 'good evening' to me as they headed out the door, homeward bound.
Gleefully, I pranced about, closing the shutters, drawing the drapes, and set about to locking the door with the ridiculously large brass key my father had left me all those years ago. Happy to retreat to my own living quarters above the shop and enjoy reading over my dinner, I was greatly peeved when a resounding knock rasped at the door behind me. I spun on my heels to address the matter swiftly, albeit in the most gentlemanly fashion I could obtain on such an empty stomach.
I turned the key and swept the door open to find the largest red bonnet I had ever seen staring back at me. To be frank, the bonnet was simply worn by the wrinkly faced inquirer, rather than doing the inquirer, but it was the first thing I saw as I stood several heads taller than the woman at the door. She had two beady blue eyes under a tuft of white hair, and a nose the size of a bulb, reminding me of a sweet potato that I had for dinner the night before. Other than the red hat, she wore a light blue dress patterned ridiculously with white flowers and birds and two red shoes no larger than a scone each. She carried an enormous yellow handbag, speckled with little pink lady bugs and a great wooden handle. While I knew that I had never met such an absurd character in all my life, something at the back of my mind was telling me otherwise.
"I'm sorry madam, but we are quite closed. You may return tomorrow morning at 9 o'clock. Good evening." I said in proper English fashion, delivering the appropriate nod of my head and quite proud of myself for my politeness on an empty stomach. Thinking that was that, dismissing the faint recognition in the instinctual part of my brain, I shut the door with a click and turned the key back in the key hole.
Now if that were the end of the story you would wonder why I wasted your time with such triviality, but indeed it was not.
Once again I turned on my heels, approaching the stairs to my living quarters when who should appear sitting on the top step but the red bonnet herself once more. I blinked, mustache bristling with anger and fear, and stormed up the steps toward her. "Dear madam, I don't quite know how you arrived at this step without my seeing you, but I can assure you that we are indeed quite closed and this area of the shop is quite restricted to the public. I bid you a quiet good evening." I said, perhaps a bit less gentlemanly than appropriate, and pressed myself against the wooden railing of the stairs, pointing the way down as if the woman did not know her way to the exit.
The red bonnet smiled up at me, further wrinkling her face like an old prune. "Now is that any way to address the woman who is responsible for all your success, my dear sir." Her voice was creaky and muffled, as if it were being transmitted through a payphone into another payphone somewhere expansive and dank, and her sweet potato nose bobbed up and down as she spoke.
"Responsible for- I do say I know nothing of this nonsense you peddle. And I want no more of it!" My pointing finger grew more insistent in its direction toward the door.
The red bonnet stood up, a bit more spry than expected for her age and tossed her lady bug speckled bag at me, muttering "carry that for an old woman won't you?" and retreated to my living quarters down the hall.
The weight of the handbag nearly knocked me down the stairs had my red-faced adrenaline not been presently coursing through my veins. I stamped up the steps after her, shouting incredulous turns of phrase at her, hoping any one of them might so greatly offend her as to make her leave; but none did.
When I arrived at my quarters she had already found her way to the kettle on the stove and begun to brew herself a some tea.
"Madam! Whatever gives you the right to go prancing about in my quarters, above my shop, brewing yourself my tea, in one of my tea cups given to me by my father as you fancy?" I dropped her bag with a heavy 'thunk' on the floor.
"My, my, my. What your father neglected to mention..." The woman whipped around pointing a crooked, wrinkled finger at me. I fell, and began bouncing across the floor, rolling like a red buffoon to land at her feet in a crumpled heap. There she stooped to pick me up and run her fingers over my new body; a red pearl necklace strewn together with blue wire.
"...is that the price of his hat shop was his first born son." She placed me around her neck, and we disappeared into the quiet evening.
The Red Hat
Checking the peephole, I'm confronted with the top of a red hat. I'm sure I've seen it before, in fact, many times before. It's been in my peripheral vision continually over the last weeks. Why is it here, banging on my apartment door? I didn't get the alert over my phone. I should have. So, who let her in? Of course, I'm assuming it's a her as the hat is flamboyant. Cardinal red with a white ribbon at the top of a floppy broad brim.
Definitely not something a man would wear unless he's a drag queen. But who knows. The pounding on my door continues and my neighbor across the hall opens her door.
"For Pete's sake, stop with the racket." Her words are harsh, and loud enough to get the next door to open, forty feet down from hers.
"Get him to answer my knock and I'll be out of your hair." The voice was sultry, like smooth aged whiskey.
Curiosity had me reaching for the dead bolt. Would the face match the allure of her words?
"Robbie, get your ass out here," Meagan's tone was the usual don't make me come after you, snide. She's a great help when I need someone to take care of my cat while I'm gone on assignment, but man I wouldn't want to cross her. She doesn't put up with crap from anyone.
I opened the door as a white glove, matching the ribbon on the hat, reached out to pound again,
"Okay, okay, you've got my attention." It was my first night home after a long undercover sting.
"My name is Karen. I've been watching you for months."
Warning bells went off as the hair on the back of my neck stood up as shivers ran down my back.
"I've seen your hat. I sure as hell have no idea who you are."
"Your best wet dream and your worst nightmare." She turned to face my neighbors and continued. "The show is over you can go back into your apartments."
I reached for the handgun I keep on the table just inside the entrance. Something was wrong about this woman. The voice was familiar. I'd heard it time and again. Where?
Oh damn. She lifted her eyes. How had I forgotten? Karen wasn't her name, just the common term describing a woman with a fascination for boys in blue. Add to that her reputation for making trouble with unsubstantiated complaints when her target refused to give in to the continual pressure for intimate contact.
Ginger Dianne Hinton. Five foot eight inches tall, fashion runway thin, with red hair exactly the right shade to get away with wearing almost any color under the sun. That included the outlandish red hat, which was her signature when she was on the prowl. Damn. Every police officer in our community knew about her. Two had come close to losing their jobs to her outrageous complaints. One of our best female officers had her up on charges for stalking. And now she's found her way to my door.
I tucked my gun into my belt at the base of my spine, and slipped out into the hallway. The door locked automatically behind me, and I breathed a sigh of relief. My keys were in my pocket. I hadn't even had a chance to put them in the dish on the kitchen table.
"Let's take a walk, Ginger. You're not getting into my home." I was wishing for my body camera as I grasped her elbow and guided her toward the elevator. How was I going to ditch her, and convince her I wasn't her cup of tea?
"It's simple Constable, get the charges against me dropped and I'll leave you alone."
"Not a chance in hell." I reached into my back pocket, fumbling for my phone. I had one hope. Get her on record threatening me.
She rubbed her sinuous body against my thigh as we entered the elevator.
I finally pulled my phone out and backed away from her. The slit in her skirt revealed more than a decent set of legs, and she lifted her right leg exposing her thigh right to her hip. Pure sex appeal and as dangerous as a black widow spider.
"Tell me what you want, and I'll try to get it done. But I want it recorded so we both know where we stand." By telling her I was taping, it cleared me to use it as evidence.
She preened, spreading her thighs, and letting me catch a glimpse of her bald feminine charms. "Heaven in return for clearing the charges. You know I don't go for women."
"No, you don't, usually. Millicent wasn't very happy with your false complaints. Too bad her body cam caught the truth."
The svelte seductive voice turned harsh. "She's a bitch. I'll find a way to cost her. Her job is toast."
"And what will it take for you to stop stalking me?" I was wondering how she'd made me in the disguise I'd developed.
"Nothing much. I need a husband, and you're it." She smiled as she purred her demand. "Otherwise, I'm complaining that you attacked me. Oh, and I'll tell my brother exactly who the bum hanging around his bar was."
"Ginger, you overstepped the law. You are under arrest. Solicitation, extortion and a few other charges." I spun her around and pulled her hands behind her. Her generous breasts would tempt a saint, but I knew her. The devil wore red and her brother was the head of a drug trafficking network we would bust tomorrow.
I made a private bet with myself. I don't think prison orange will go with that hair.
She’s beautiful! How do I know her? Who cares, she’s beautiful and standing outside my office door.
“Hello. Can I help you, ma’am?”
“Hey, handsome! I’m going to let you take me out to dinner!”
“Well, uh, I was actually fixing to head home. I have papers to grade. But, okay. I do need to eat dinner. Let me get my coat!”
How do I know this woman? Is she one of my students? No, my students don’t look like that. I’ve seen her somewhere before. Do I have amnesia? Was I in an accident? Am I dreaming?
“I like your office, Professor!”
I like your…uh…(glances at breasts)…your red hat!”
“haha! Let’s go!
She has the face of a model! No, an actress. I knew I’ve seen her before! That’s it!! She’s Mad…
“So, Professor. You know I don’t expect you remember my name.”
“Huh? Of course, I do! You’re …”
“…Mae. All the way Mae, they call me.” She winks.
The two of them smile at each other. Meanwhile, somewhere across town, poor Helen is still looking for her red hat.
Red hat, Blue rat, One rat, Many rats,
"A loud knock at the door startles you. You open it to find a woman in a red hat staring back. You've seen her before but can't place her." The video game text said. Under the short sentence, it listed the few action options available. There were only three, the first one was to say hello while the second option was to close the door without saying a word. The third option was to leave the door open, but say nothing. Adam looked through the options one last time before picking the first one, the other two options were just awkward. There was a slight pause as the game site calibrated his option, Adam's internet was a bit slow, so he got up from the couch and got a orange soda from the fridge. It popped open with a slight hiss as he sat back down on the couch and moved the laptop back onto his lap. The site had loaded and he could see the lady's reaction to his short greeting.
"Oh, why thank you Mr. Greatestever." Mr. Greatestever, was the name Adam had decided on for his character, "I am Rojala, your new neighbor, I live in that small hut," she said as she point to Mr. Greatestever's left. "I have a bit of a rat problem, and I was wondering if you would be able resolve it for me."
The reply options, only two this time, was to tell her to get lost, or say he would gladly help in getting rid of her rat problem. It was a basic beginning quest. Adam, or Mr. Greatestever, chose to help.
"Oh, why thank you Mr. Greatestever. Here take this, it should be of help," Rojala said has she gave Adam's short blond character a knife, described as an old, rusty, and bent knife, with low value. "I saw a rat in my backyard, and it ran into the cellar when I screamed. There are probably more down there. I will pay you three coppers when you are done." Finished, she headed back into her house. Mr. Greatestest started walking around the village as Adam finished his soda, his third one of that Saturday morning. The graphics were pretty good for a free online game, but Adam did not see any ads, yet. He had found the game while surfing the internet, he was bored, so he downloaded it and started playing. He chose a mage character. He went and tossed the soda can in the kitchen trash and went back to his couch and laptop. It was time to shoot rats with some fireballs. Technically the beginning spell was called minor firesphere, but it was a fire ball anyhow, just a little weaker.
Mr. Greatestever equipped the fireball spell and went to the back of the neighbors house. There was a single blue rat in the backyard. Mr Greatestever shot it with a small, minor, fireball. It died with a single hit. "That was too easy,"Adam said as Mr Greatestever went in down into the cellar. There was a loading screen and then the cellar appeared on screen. There were rats everywhere. There were at least twenty rats in the main room alone, and Adam saw that there were two doors. There probably were more rats behind each of them.
Mr. Greatestever started shooting fire balls everyway, however, he had only shot and killed 4 rats when a message flashed on the screen. "Need more energy," it said, flasing red with a black background. Mr. Greatestever then got bitten by a rat. "Low health," the message said, with the same background. The single bite from the rat had taken more than half his healthbar down. Mr. Greatestever turned to exist the cellar. The game blocked him.
"That is odd," Adam said. Another message popped up onto the screen, again the same background.
"Unable to leave during combat." The rat bite one more time. Mr. greatestever dropped dead. The message"You died" flashed on the screen with some sad background music as the screen turned black.
"Shot,' Adam said as he went to get another soda. When he got back to the couch, there was another image with a caption.
"Pay $1.00 to come back to life." It said, with info underneath to add card details.
"Oh, so that's how they make money," Adam said. He pulled out his wallet.
The Last of the Flames
my pen is dry, rusted,
formerly fueld by pain,
of my demons,
lay black against the page.
spelling out the ending
of my once and former rage.
loneliness is dry
and no longer salivates,
and I'm searching for an ending
that let's me recreate.
is a bitch
when agony fades
and the last of my hauntings,
and stretched thin into letters,
and painted on nothing
except this imaginary page.
and if my scars are like braille
they will spell words of hope
and I will finally remember
how to read them.
and I will be grateful.
and I will learn to put
flame to page once more,
and save the paper with moisture
not made of tears.
The last humans in the solar system studied the death of Earth from their vantage point two-hundred-and-thirty miles above Hawaii. Long-range scanners measured the violent shift in tectonics as the planet’s inner core ripped apart. The expected devastation had been predicted as far back as the twentieth century. What the observers had not foreseen was the release of something from the core.
Energy readings and changes in mantle density plotted the escape route – circular at first, as it devoured the perovskite and ferropericlase, then moving up as it ate into the asthenosphere. It left nothing in its wake, the Earth now only an empty sphere.
The scientists knew that anything created within the five-thousand-two-hundred-degree core was nothing short of magical.
Still the anomaly moved outward, absorbing the inner earth. Some feared this was dark energy, that it would not stop at the consumption of the planet but would touch the space station and instantly transform it – and its crew – to nothing. Others posited that upon reaching the surface, whatever irregularity they were witnessing would pop out of existence. Both theories were soon proven wrong.
The first breach was detected on the opposite side of the planet. Within minutes, another hundreds-mile long fissure swallowed the Arctic Ocean. A third took out Antarctica and the fourth opened in the Pacific, north of Hawaii.
From this final break in the Earth’s crust, the onlookers were afforded their first glimpse at the entity. Twelve gigantic antennae, a translucent shade of ultra-violet, pushed forth, stretching miles ahead of the bulk to which they were attached. Its form too big for the opening, the creature pulsed until the remaining skin of the Earth split into myriad pieces.
With a gentle beat of its four wings, the lifeform swooped away from its now-discarded egg.