Saturday, August 1, 2015

Cabin of Illusion

And another prompt driven tale, and a little outside my norm.  My answer to: cabin of illusion for Master Class Monday at Eat Sleep Write




"I thought you said your Aunt Merle lived in castle, Mom"

"Well, Becky, it's been a long time since I visited, maybe it just seemed bigger." Leah, peered through the windshield trying to align her memories of grandeur with the ramshackle cabin in the headlights. 

Her thirteen year old daughter rolled her eyes, "So what, you were two?"

Leah ignored Becky's remark. She'd been older than two the last time she'd stayed with Aunt Merle. She'd just graduated high school and was enjoying her last summer before college. Her aunt had invited her for a two week respite from the crowded home she shared with her parents and four younger siblings. 

That was twenty years ago. The classes, followed by work and a failed marriage that left her a single mother had pushed her favorite aunt to the bottom of her priority list. She been guilt ridden when she'd learned Aunt Merle had passed away. Then stunned when she found that the castle had been left to her.

So she packed her daughter and their belongings into the aging van and trekked across several states to take up residence in the place that held her happiest memories. 

"Mom. Mom! Hey, are you listening?" Becky wailed. "We're not really gonna live here, are we? This place is awful!"

Leah sighed, "Give it chance. We're going to be here for a while. If it doesn't work out, I'll put it up for sale."

They exited the vehicle and climbed creaky steps to a small porch. Leah fumbled for the keys in the dark as Becky clung to her side, muttering under her breath about the lack of light. Finally unlocking the door, Leah groped for a wall switch. "Damn! I should have brought a flashlight." She shuffled carefully into the room feeling for a lamp.

An eerie glow flashed next to her eliciting a squeak of fright. "Phone, Mom. Relax."

Casting a sidelong glance at her daughter, Leah discovered and turned on a floor lamp to her left. The light revealed a cozy sitting room furnished with a plush sofa covered in colorful pillows and two comfortable looking chairs. Table lamps with glass shades occupied three end tables, one at either end of the sofa, the third between the chairs. They quickly switched them on.

"Wow!" Becky turned slowly as the light revealed a kaleidoscope of primary hues. The walls were covered with small vividly colored prints and hanging sculptures, a bright mobile of birds finished in glossy paint hung in front of a large window. Lower spaces held bookshelves filled with books and bric-a-brac. The dark hard wood floor boasted several throw rugs woven in brilliant colors.

Leah grinned at her daughter's reaction, this was the grandeur that lived in her memories. "Pretty impressive, isn't it."

"It's crazy. And...I like it!" Becky kept twirling, her eyes darting around the room, trying to take it in all at once.

"C'mon, you want to see the rest."

Becky reluctantly pulled herself away and followed her mother into the kitchen. A large overhead light illuminated lemon yellow walls. Copper bottomed pots and pans hung from hooks topped with plaster cast flowers. Glass fronted cupboards showed a collection of glass bowls and cookware in a variety of colorful patterns. 

The refrigerator was awash in magnets, the range sported a gaily enamelled teapot. In one corner a polka dot cloth covered a small dining table, the two chairs padded with contrasting stripes.

The two small bedrooms were similarly drenched in color, from the bedding to framed embroidery and boldy patterned quilts. Colored photos covered a short hallway. Even the bathroom was a riot of multi-hued tiles. 
                                                                 
"That's it Becky. Aunt Merle's cabin." Leah dropped onto the sofa beside her daughter. 

Becky shifted the many pillows into a comfortable nest. "Aunt Merle's cabin? You mean our castle, right?" 

Leah laughed, "Wait 'til morning, I'll show you the moat."




Saturday, July 25, 2015

Campfire Story


My offering for Master Class Monday on Eat Sleep Write
I chose the prompt forlorn phantasms




Ott felt the muscles twitching under the saddle.  He unconsciously squeezed the mare's rib cage, willing her to stay still.  The steady north wind hid the blow of breath she uttered to let him know she was not content with the current situation.

"I swear, animal, you're half puma, half ass." He rubbed the velvety hide of her neck as he slid the long rifle from its scabbard.  He'd glimpsed furtive movement just outside the light of the fire he'd left burning low. 

His pack horse tied near the camp and a carefully placed bedroll gave the appearance of a sleeping cowboy.  Ott had walked the black mare up a wooded ridge before sunset to watch for what had been raiding his rations for the past few nights.

As he watched, the pack horse began to dance nervously against its tether. His mare tensed in response to the other animal's discomfort.

"Steady girl," Ott whispered. Moments later three shadows emerged from the brush. Bodies hugging the ground, they moved cautiously toward the camp.

They scuttled soundlessly on four limbs, spider like in their progress. An occasional lift of heads as they checked for scent.

Ott squinted into the dark, trying to identify the creatures. They'd avoided the pack animal and the bedroll, going directly to the food he'd placed on the opposite side of the fire. The trio converged on the meager pile, pushing each other in their silent rush to be first to claim the prize.

Ott sighted down the rifle, finger ready on the trigger. As he steadied to fire, one raised its head. The glow of the coals illuminated the pale face of a child.

Startled, he lowered the gun. When the mare snorted in response to his abrupt movement, all three heads turned his way. They crouched, motionless around the pile of food. Ott felt their eyes fix on him. Tamping down the uneasiness in his gut, Ott prodded his mount forward. She stepped hesitantly down the incline, sensing either his own trepidation or the gazes of the eyes below.

They never stirred as he wove the mare through trees, but Ott sensed them following him. The horse stopped several yards from camp, refusing to move any further. Dismounting with the rifle, he approached slowly, aware of the continued scrutiny. As he came closer he could see the glow of the coals reflected in black eyes. Spindly limbs bent at elbows and knees, they perched on hands and feet, bellies close to the earth. Forgotten children left to fend for themselves.

As he crossed the camp's perimeter, one of them emitted an eerie howl. A return howl combined with renewed rustling in the surrounding brush brought Ott to a halt. The pack horse now panicked, slipped its tether and galloped into the surrounding dark as at least a dozen more forlorn phantasms moved into view.

Ott eased back toward the unnerved whinny of the mare. Any concern he may have felt was swiftly replaced by a knot of fear as the pack moved after him. He turned and sprinted the final distance to his horse, the animal stomping and wild eyed as he vaulted into the saddle. He didn't waste time calming the animal as the brush expelled even more bodies. 

He hung on as the mare reared in terror as the horde surrounded them. He kicked her into motion, intending to charge through the mass of bodies. Ott glimpsed, too late the leap that propelled one of them into his chest, knocking him from his seat. 

He lay winded within the tightening circle as hoof beats disappeared into the night.




Saturday, July 18, 2015

Joiner

Linked up with EatSleepWrite for Master Class Monday.
This is my take on the prompt "along with the crowd"



Anne huddled in the corner of the cushionless love seat. Her head bowed, arms hugging knees drawn up to her chest. Her tangled red hair hung limply over her face. Discreetly peeking through the veil of hair, she inspected her surroundings. Cinder block walls stained with moisture, an uneven, crumbling concrete floor combined with thumps from above confirmed the hunch that she was in a basement.

Elsewhere in the cellar she could hear sobbing intermingled with angry tirades of creative cursing from fellow captives. Her ears perceived perhaps a dozen other women sharing her prison.

The smell of rotting fabric vying with the medicinal odor of an anesthetic was abruptly overpowered by the the foul odor of death and decay. Fingers parted her hair, a partially decomposed hand cupped her chin, forcing her head up. She summoned an appropriate shriek as she studied the creature in front of her.

The flesh gripping her chin was spongy, and she assumed was the same purple tinted grey-green as the mutilated face. No life shone from clouded eyes. No breath expelled from between decaying lips.

Her study was interrupted by the thwack of a two by four connecting with the corrupted flesh. "Get away from her! You back off or I'll make you deader'n you already are!" To Anne's surprise, the creature shuffled away.

"You okay, honey? Ol' Squishy there, he ain't dangerous, just nosy. An' he stinks."

Anne remained silent, now studying her new companion. Dark skin with darker eyes, small in stature but large in attitude. Finally she spoke, "I'm fine, thank you. Just what is...Squishy?"

"Zombie, I guess. 'Cept he ain't tried to eat nobody. I'm Meeshie. Who're you?"

"Anne." She sized up the petite woman, then asked, "How long have you been here? How many others are there, and anyone know why?"

Meeshie offered a hand, "Well, I been here about a week, I think there's fourteen of us, maybe fifteen now." Anne grasped the proffered hand, allowing Meeshie to pull her from her seat. "Why're we here? No idea."

Anne Marie stretched, working out the kinks of sitting folded for hours. "I was grabbed off the street, same for everyone?"

"Was you workin'? Not judgin', just askin'. And, yeah, I think most of us was picked off the street."

"Working, yes, you could say that." She glanced around, trying to catch sight of the other women. "Were all of you working?"

"Nah. Only a couple really. I was just comin' back from the quickie mart with a slushie." Meeshie chuckled, "My cousin keeps tellin' me they ain't good for me." She scrutinized Anne closely, "You don't seem very shook up about joinin' the crowd."

Anne ignored the remark and cast a glance at the ceiling where the sound of footsteps had resumed. "And no one knows who's up there, calling the shots?"

"Nope, hauled here with hoods over our heads. After, we ain't seen nobody but Squishy." Meeshie looked away, shifting eyes belying her bravado. "An' that's the spooky part, spookier than Ol' Squishy himself."

Anne Marie gave an imperceptible nod, "Spooky indeed," she muttered, wondering just who was walking upstairs and what were they waiting for?

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The Draw

This is my response to the EatSleepWrite-Flash it Friday prompt.  



"Draw two cards." Caught by surprise, Casey stopped on her trip back to the plane's galley. The man hadn't spoken but three words since he'd boarded, those being yes, pertaining to the lunch offering, and thank you when she removed the empty tray.

"Excuse me?" As she waited for him to repeat his question she tried to place his age. He wore a black overcoat and a worn black bowler, dark glasses covered the top half of his pale face. The only visible color was the blood red of a thin tie.

"Draw two cards." He fanned the deck before her.

"Is this a magic trick?" She smiled as an indecipherable unease crept through her shoulders.

"Perhaps." His thin lips attempted a smile in return.

She glanced around the cabin, looking for a valid excuse to flee. She could feel his unseen eyes staring into hers. Holding her breath, she tugged two cards from the deck.

"And what have you drawn?"

Casey wrenched her gaze from the reflection of her own eyes in his dark glasses to study her cards. "A pair of aces."

His brows appeared above the dark frames. "A pair of aces? How unusual."

With increasing discomfort, Casey snapped out, "Yes, a diamond and a spade. So did I win?"

"Perhaps. It seems you have a decision to make, my dear. Riches or death."

She thrust the cards at him, "No, no I don't." 

He grasped her hands and wrapped them around the pair, "No, my dear, these are yours. You needn't decide now, but eventually you must." He maintained the contact for several minutes, still holding her gaze with his unseen stare.

The call of "Stewardess!" from several seats forward broke the spell. Casey pulled away roughly, tucking the cards in her pocket unconsciously.

She avoided him the rest of the routine flight. Comfort didn't return until the flight ended and her feet touched the tarmac.

She hadn't expected it to be her last day at work. Cost cuts and low seniority left her unemployed.

Another day in a month of days looking for work. Casey had skipped breakfast, and lunch was probably going to be one more cup of ramen noodles. She was blocks from her apartment when the sky opened up, soaking her in seconds.

The closest shelter was a school bus parked along a desolate side street. The door was open, she hesitated only a moment before hopping up the steps. She dropped into the first seat wringing out her hair as her clothes shed puddles around her waterlogged shoes. She leaned back, depressed and exhausted, she drifted into an uncomfortable sleep.

She woke to the sound of the doors closing with a hydraulic hiss. "Oh, I'm so sorry!" she sputtered, jumping from her seat.

"No problem, my dear." The driver turned his sun glassed face her way, "It is time to make your decision." 

Casey fell back to the seat as he started the engine and rolled away from the curb.



















Monday, June 29, 2015

Lifted

Poetry is not my norm. But I was intrigued by Eat Sleep Write's poetry prompt this week, especially with the local "monsoon" month going on. Here's what poured out.

wind and rain
bring an unseasonal chill
upending plans for the day

instead
a trip to the berry patch
splashing through puddles

pick
purple black sweetness
with rain washed fingers

feet
crying for release
from soggy stockings

inhale
ozone freshed air
exhale fatigue and ennui

berries
set aside for later
with shoes and socks

time
to dance barefoot
with the drops

raise
hands to the sky
pirouette in the breeze




Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Blessing of the Garden Gate

My offering for Master Class Monday at EatSleepWrite
The prompt I chose was nonpotable blessings




Twas quiet here, not long ago.  Shadow prevailed and gave cover to ghosts of the despair.  Wraiths of grief wrapped chilled fingers of loneliness around the heart of one left behind.  Neglect squeezed and choked life into submission.

Then she arrived. Her dreams and memories carried in boxes of cluttered life. The man by her side not so sure of this final destination, pulled along by her need to come home.

Life and color slowly return, the man working hard to reclaim a space left to weedy decay. She spends her time splashing color on faded walls. Together they create home.

Warm, golden light now shines from windows once shuttered in despair. The laughter within spills haphazardly into flowerbeds beneath the screened opening as one of the blood resides within again.

The bright Fae of the night climb thorny stems to peek inside.  Wings shimmering with moon glow from a cloudless sky, they raise excited brows and whisper of better times. They've marked the return of Rose and Tulip, old bearded Iris.  They hail the arrival of Lily and Heather.
  
Malevolent ivy retreats in frustration, pushed out by carefully nurtured roots. It slumbers uneasily beneath the color splashed gardens, waiting for the chance to regain a foothold.

Barefoot, careful of the garden sprites, the woman contentedly surveys the work of her spouse. Multiple beds entice butterflies and honey bees. Songbirds settle into the regained peace. 

A vegetable garden flourishes where none have farmed for decades. Fruit trees replace the ones lost through age and neglect. Wild berries welcome eager hands that have grown since picking and stuffing them into giggling faces long ago.

Her gaze follows the spreading limbs of the oak that shaded her childhood. Beneath it an overgrown lilac was a green fortress for herself and her siblings. Trimmed and tidied it still provides a quiet space within to think and to dream. 

On sunny days her man sees the figure of a woman regarding his work. Her grandmother she says. The one who left behind bits of garden hidden amongst the weeds. He raises his brow, but accepts and hopes his efforts are acceptable.

From the corner of her eye she catches glimpses of the Fae. They duck under the ferns and dance around the lilies. Playing chase with the squirrels and flitting about the feeder with hummingbirds. She tells no one she sees them, just smiles to herself.

Flowers follow their season, bloom then fade, replaced by the next, finally relinquishing to colder months. The vegetable garden ripens and gives its bounty to enhance the table through winter. Always some seed or fruit is left behind for wildlife. And Fae.

Snow fall blankets the ground, insulating roots and bulbs. A protective cover of bright white sheltering the promise of spring to come. 

She looks for the tracks in the snow. Rabbit, squirrel, and sometimes prints unfamiliar. Frosty pictures are left on window panes, icy flowers, a reminder that spring is nearby.

With yarn in her lap she waits out the cold. Watching for the early signs, a blush in the undergrowth, tiny buds peeking from the trees. Daffodils pushing through the frost, not waiting for a designated date. 

Soon, the time for faery dances and color will draw her barefoot through the garden gate and all the blessings it holds.



Sunday, June 21, 2015

The Vic

A new story with Willa, the realtor that "hears" houses.


Willa Baker pulled into the gravel drive, rolling over the clutches of weeds getting an early spring start on absorbing the stones. Parked next to the house, she fiddled about with the paperwork in no rush to exit the relative safety of her car. 

A loud slap on her windshield yanked a strangled squeal from her throat, heart racing she looked up to see a shingle slither down the pane to lean nonchalantly against the hood.

"Fine, you old bitch. I'm coming. Don't know what for...you've chased off at least two dozen prospectives." She ran her fingers through her dark, shoulder length curls before gathering her purse and briefcase. Taking a deep breath, she opened the sedan's door and cautiously stepped out. 

When no more shingles fell, she began her customary walk-about of the property. Starting from the drive, she made a circle from her car to the rear, reacquainting herself with house and yard while watching for evidence of vandalism or signs of breaking and entering. As usual, the place looked no different than when she'd first inspected it. 

Willa made her way around the other side of the house and down the front lawn to the street. Sighing, she slowly made her way up the uneven pavers, her mind appraising the house for the umpteenth time.

The old Victorian had seen better days. Neighboring homes stood well away, as though the peeling paint might disease their vinyl facades. Though the spring sun still shone brightly on the few boards still boasting their lavender hue, grey held sway and was gaining ground.

Plush green lawns held the wayward weeds and rocky soil at bay either side of the Victorian's lot. A ramshackle shed stood at the edge of an abandoned garden. The only clue of its prior existence was a gnarled rosebush stubbornly clinging to life. 

Boarded windows with shutters atilt gave the house an air of isolation. Passers by averted their gaze. Neighbors never mentioned it. Even the children shunned it, not worthy of imaginative adventures.

She stepped onto the porch, mentally running through the list of clients that had come to see the Vic. She turned to the faded red front door, eyebrows raised. "What are you gonna pull today, huh?"

The last young man that had come to see the old place had immediately begun planning renovations before stepping foot inside.

"That cupola will have to go, or be enclosed. The shed will need to be razed. It's a mess. Who paints a door red?" He continued his criticism up the porch. Willa knew this wasn't going to go well when the she had to fight to open the door.

He kept up his running monologue of changes from the front hall, around the kitchen, and all the way up the stairway. Willa could feel the resentment building. She wasn't shocked when they opened the first bedroom door to find the ceiling caved in and plaster falling from the walls. 

"You've got to be kidding me! You said the inside was in decent shape!" 

"Well, it is an old house, I didn't say it was perfect." Willa answered. She muttered under her breath, "Really, a little overkill, don't you think?"

"What?" She hadn't realized she'd spoken aloud.

"Oh, nothing, just chattering to myself." Though she knew it was pointless to continue, she asked, "Would you like to see the rest of the rooms?"

"NO."

Willa breathed a sigh of relief, hard telling what other surprises the old Vic had in store if they continued. She followed the young man as he hurriedly made his way back down the stairs and out the front door leaving it wide open. 

As he opened his car door, he looked at Willa, "Maybe if the seller drops the price, I'd be interested in the property. But the building is worthless, needs to be burned." As he finished speaking the front door slammed shut. Startled, he gave Willa a suspicious glare, jumped into his car, twisted the key, and sped away.

Willa stood at the end of the walk, her eyes sweeping from the wide porch to the square cupola. As she strode forward, she fished for the keys in her pocket. 

"Oh,hell." She reached the porch and tried the door. It was locked, with her briefcase, purse, and keys inside. "Give me a break. You're awfully fussy, you know. Cute trick in that bedroom." 

On her walk through the previous day, the interior of the house had been tidy and the rooms as neat as the long years of in-occupancy would allow. As they had been every time she inspected it after a disastrous showing.

Eight interested parties had come to see the house in the last month. Each one had evidently been deemed unworthy by the Vic. 

Willa glared at the locked door, "You know, if you don't come down off that high horse of yours, the bank is going to take you down itself. They're already getting antsy."

The door remained solidly closed. Willa turned as she heard a car pull into the driveway behind her own. "Great, last client of the day and I can't even show them your inside. Though that might be for the best."

She pasted an apologetic smile on her face as a young woman exited the car. "Hi, I'm Willa, and you're Tina?"

The woman clutched her purse nervously, her eyes bouncing from the house to Willa, across the yard and back to Willa. Finally, she shyly nodded her head. "Yes, I'm Tina. I came to look at the house?"

Willa thought, "Oh dear, this beast will make a meal of this one." Aloud she said, "That was the plan, but...I managed to lock myself out. I'd be glad to show you outside and the property." Willa waited a moment. "I can get another key tomorrow, if you want to come back then. I am so, so sorry."

"Oh, I see." Tina's head dropped, "Well, um, I guess I can just look around outside."

"All right, but there's not much to see." Willa automatically went into sales mode as she led Tina around the property. "The house has been empty for some time. There will be the need for some repairs, but the price is low enough to allow for that. There are some windows obviously need to be replaced, and the exterior will need painting."

Tina spoke quietly,"Is that color lavender? Is that the original paint?"

"Well, it was the last time someone painted, I expect."

"It's pretty, I wonder what the whole house would look like if it was repainted in that."

Willa raised her brows with hope. "I imagine it would be grand, Tina. And then add a nice contrast to the trim and shutters...it could be gorgeous!"

Tina smiled cautiously at Willa as they walked toward the back yard.

"Is that a garden? And a potting shed? What kind of rose bush is that?  Oh my, it has a bloom already!"

Willa jerked her head toward the weedy patch that was once a garden. A perfect red rose peeked out of the overgrown bush, a rose that hadn't been there and hour ago.

"May I look inside the shed?" Tina was already reaching for the door. "Look, lavender paint here too! And look! There's some left on the trim. I think it's green, oh, I like that!"

Willa was enjoying the young woman's enthusiasm, "Just like a lilac, and you're welcome to look inside, just don't expect much."

Tina pulled the shed door open and squealed with delight. "Look at the old gardening tools, and pots! This is perfect! Oh, I wish we could get inside, the house must be awesome!" Her timid nature evaporating with every step.

"I'm really sorry about that," Willa repeated, "I swear I'll get a key tomorrow." Tina barely heard as she trotted up the back porch and peeked through the window of the kitchen door.  

As Tina leaned against the door, she twisted the knob unconsciously. "It's open!  Can I go in? You must've left it open earlier and forgot. Now I can see the inside and you can get your keys." Tina scooted inside before Willa could answer.

"What're you up to, you old biddy? I've never opened that door." Willa muttered her suspicions as Tina explored the kitchen. The centerpiece of the room was a large work table, a worn Hoosier cabinet stood next to a huge one basin sink. Tina walked the entire room, gushing about it's personality.

From there to the dining room. The ornate oak trim shone as if it has just been polished. The peeling wallpaper didn't even seem faded.  Willa smiled at Tina while surreptitiously casting suspicious glances behind and ahead. The Vic had never looked better. 

From attic to basement, the old house showed only its best to Willa's client. Tina's originally shy demeanor had  disappeared by the time she'd investigated every room, closet, and corner at least three times. 

Willa cautioned Tina to think about the time and expense it would take to bring the old Victorian back in shape. "No need to rush. There aren't any other offers. Sleep on it, make sure you really want to invest so much."  

Her thoughts were running a different route. "This place must be getting to me, I'm actually trying to discourage the only client to get through the whole place."

It was no matter, her advice went unheard, "Oh no! I'm ready! I love this house, I want this house, and it needs me. I'll have to get started matching paint and wallpaper." Willa tamped the frown that wanted to take over her brow. 

An hour later, the offer signed and ready to be delivered, Willa finally convinced Tina to go home. 

"But this is home now," Tina whined. 

"Not yet. I'll turn this in first thing. Then we'll go from there, dear. There are hoops to jump through." Willa promised she'd call as soon as the everything was properly attended. 

After multiple reassurances,  the young woman had finally driven away, Willa sat alone in the kitchen. The Vic had been a difficult property and Willa wasn't convinced that the house was through playing games. She'd read resentment and anger regularly as she had led other clients through the Vic. Now, she felt arrogance infuse the space. 

"Happy now, you old beast?  Find your soul mate?" a loud flapping sound echoed down the stairwell. Willa arched a brow, "Fine. I'll leave. But if you chase her off after your performance today, I won't bring anyone else. I'll leave you to the wrecking ball."

She packed the papers into her briefcase, made sure the house was secured and headed for her car. Five more shingles lay on the hood.