Friday, August 21, 2015

Hunt for the Red Wolf

My offering for Master Class Monday at EatSleepWrite I chose the prompt; Red Wolf Hunting.




Madaline raced across the meadow, her scarlet cape fluttering behind her. The thud of her heart made it difficult to keep track of the footfalls closing the distance between herself and her pursuers.

Her eyes fixed on the treeline only a few yards ahead. A desperate burst of speed propelled her through the brush. She kept up her pace while grabbing the edges of the cape to keep it from the tangled mass of branches and undergrowth as she scrambled deeper into the trees.

The pursuit slowed once she reached the forest. She knew it was only a mometary pause. Stepping behind a large trunk, she pulled the fabric from her shoulders. Had it been fall the bright color may have been an aid, however among the bright green growth of mid spring, she may as well stand and wave at her trackers.

Behind her, she could hear jays and squirrels angrily announcing the trespass of the group chasing her. Bundling cape as compactly as she could, she jogged farther into the dense forest. She no longer travelled a straight course, weaving first one direction, then another. She used the chatter of the wildlife to keep apprised of the position of the hunting party.

The light was dim under the canopy of leaves, she'd been moving through the forest since just after noon. She guessed it was close to evening. Winged residents were making their last forays before taking to nest, small creatures of the brush and treetops had already disappeared. Those that foraged at night would soon be stalking. 

Madeline ignore the growing exhaustion of her flight and kept her steady pace as twilight sucked the last light away. Tiny singers of night tuned their throats and stretched wings. It was with relief that she climbed a grassy hummock barely visible in the brush and dark. Sliding down the opposite side, she found the overgrown opening and crawled inside.

She laid her head on her bundled cape and immediately fell asleep.

She woke abruptly, momentarily disoriented by the darkness, she scrabbled in the dirt of her burrow. Finding the cape, she tamped down the panic and cautiously approached the exit. The singers of early night had finished their set, stillness enveloped the forest. She silently slid from her hiding place, ears alert for unnatural sounds. 

Climbing to the top of the hummock she strained to see through the darkness. Her breath caught as she spied the low glow of a campfire. They'd come much closer than she'd been expecting. Using the darkness, she carefully made her way toward the camp.

Close enough to smell the burning embers. she shook out the bundle, releasing the cape Madeline threw it across her shoulders and dropped to the ground. She then crept forward on all fours, stopping a few feet outside the circle around the banked fire. six bodies lay close to the fire, two more leaned against trees, their watch thwarted by snores and drooped heads.

Madeline smiled to herself. The weak glow from the camp's center reflected in her eyes. Lifting her muzzle high, she howled. The ensuing panic excited her.

Time for the red wolf's hunt to commence.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Seven Reasons Not to Camp Alone

My offbeat offering for Coldly Calculating and EatSleepWrite where the Prompt was The Seven Dwarves.



What the hell happened? One minute I was peacefully relaxing in front of the campfire. Listening to the cicadas and tree frogs singing, entranced by the embers of the fire, lazy flames licking the remains of the logs I'd laid hours ago.

This little man meandered into view. Green shirt, yellow breeches, and the goofiest hat I'd ever seen. He introduce himself as Doc. He made himself comfortable, warming his chubby hands at my fire. Asked what I was doing out there all by myself.

I told him I wasn't by myself, my boyfriend would be back shortly. I may have lied. Even though I was pretty sure I could take him, I didn't think it wise to let him know I was alone.

He smiled knowingly. I felt a prick on my neck and poof, I woke up chained to a wall. 

I wondered how the little fella got me here all by himself, until I met the rest of the gang. His six cohorts were dressed just like him. Green and yellow, and goofy hats. They even looked alike, bulbous noses, squinty eyes, and greasy smiles.

I didn't meet them all at once. And it took me some time to tell them apart. They seemed to take turns checking up on me. Bringing food and water. Or emptying the chamber pot they provided. They even gave me a brush and brought a damp cloth to wash with daily. 

There was Happy, though Renfield might have been a better name, he giggled hysterically when I said anything, particularly if I asked him to let me go. So much for that.

Then Grouchy, what an understatement. He looked like he was just waiting for an excuse to beat the shit outta me. I chose not to test that theory.

The one that called himself Bashful was anything but. He had zero shyness with the hands. Constantly petting my hair, or touching my face. Made me shudder. Yuck.

I think Sneezy was worse though. Continually snotting and dripping all over. I didn't know what kind of plague he had, but I didn't want it. If he brought the food, I wouldn't eat it.

And Dopey, yeah. No explanation needed.

Sleepy, I couldn't figure out. He'd shuffled in, check my restraints. Yawn. Ask if I was thirsty. Yawn. No, he wouldn't let me go. Yawn. He head for the door, stretch and before he could muster up the energy to open it, drop to floor and catch a twenty minute nap. Not weird at all.


Today they haven't been here to bring food yet. I'm not sure if that's a good thing. The chains are still intact, and starving or dehydrating to death doesn't appeal to me. Also the pot is starting to stink.  

Uh oh. I hear them, all of them. This cannot bode well.

Doc is the first one in the door. He's got a hypodermic. Not good. Not good at all. The rest are piling in behind him. Sleepy comes over and undoes the chains from the wall, Grouchy and Bashful grab my arms. Doc says if I cooperate he won't need to dope me. Sure, no problem, I can behave.

They're walking me through the woods now. I don't know where we're going, but I bet letting me go is not the plan. 

What is that? The sunlight is glinting off something up ahead. 

As we get closer I can see a dozen or so glass boxes. 

Closer yet, I can see each box has a girl inside.

Oh hell no!

As I start to struggle, Happy starts his creepy high pitched giggling. Sleepy curls up snoring nearby as Dopey lights a joint. Sneezy has progressed to puking in the grass.

Grouchy is ready to clock me, and Bashful starts to rub my back. Yuck.

They drag me to the one empty box. Doc grins, and sticks the needle in my upper arm. 

I feel the drug working. As the lid comes down, I scream with the last of my energy.

"Someday! You wait! Someday my prince will come!"

Saturday, August 15, 2015

The New Maid

Linked with Master Class Monday at EatSleepWrite
I chose the prompt: Maid for Murder



"Here's your room, there's a bathroom room with shower. The bed sheets are fresh and the dresser's been emptied." Janice said while pointing out the specifics.

Carly nodded, the single room apartment was surprisingly roomy. Following Janice up the steep stairs, she'd expected a cramped space. Though the ceiling sloped dramatically on either side, the completely furnished area was arranged for minimal head bumping. 

The long room featured sitting and sleeping space, the bathroom centered on one side. Each area had a large window as well as a skylight. The sleeping area also held a desk pushed against a small door in a knee wall. Puzzled, she asked, "What's that for?"

"Attic access, we don't use it." Janice replied then quickly recited the terms of employment. "Room and board for regular housekeeping. You'll be expected to start your duties at eight. You're shift ends after the evening meal, about six. You are free to do what you wish after that." Janice continued, "We lock up at ten o'clock, if you're not home, you're not getting in until seven next morning."

Carly nodded her understanding.

The first week flew by in a flurry of activity; working, and shopping for necessities. Worn out she was in bed well before the ten o'clock lock up.

Several weeks later she woke to find her bed bathed in light. After a moment of disoriented panic, she realized the full moon was shining through the skylight. 

Mummbling to herself, Carly slid her feet into slippers and shuffled downstairs. Hopefully, Janice was still awake and had something she could use to cover the window. She was disturbed to find the door was locked. 

Irritated, she knocked, "Janice? It's Carly, I need a blind for the skylight." No sound came from the other side. "Janice! Open the door, Janice!" She pounded on the door.

As she considered screaming, she heard footsteps followed by the scrape of a key. Janice opened the door in her nightgown, sleep tousled hair, and an angry frown. 

Carly was confused, "Why is this door locked?"

"It is after ten, I told you, we lock up at ten."

"I didn't know I'd be locked in."

Janice glared at her. "It's the middle of the night. What is so important that it couldn't wait until morning?"

"I need a blind for the skylight, the moon is making it daylight up there." Carly said.

"Moonlight, this is about the moon? Go to bed. We'll discuss this in the morning." Janice waited for Carly to climb the steps.

"But..."

"I said, in the morning!"

Janice slammed the door. Carly heard the scrape of the key, relocking her exit. She raised a fist, about to pound again. Reconsidering with a sigh of annoyance, she stomped, loudly, back upstairs. 

After several minutes of pacing, she finally returned the bed, rolling to the edge, she turned her back to the moonlight only to find its reflection on the wall. As she lay staring at the offending light a shadow slowly appeared. Carly spun around seeking the skylight. She caught a glimpse of something pass over the upper edge of the window. 

She leapt out of bed, hitting her head on the low cieling. Her thud was echoed by the sound of footsteps from beyond the skylight, crossing the roof and down the other side. After a short silence there was scratching behind the small attic door. 

Carly raced down the steps. Pounding on the door and rattling the knob, she screamed for her employer once again.

She realized Janice wasn't coming. She perched on the bottom step and huddled against the solid wood of the door. 

She heard something dragging across the carpet in the sleeping area. Padded footsteps approached the darkened stairwell.

Refusing to look, she pounded the door, begging for release.


Janice unlocked the door at precisely seven o'clock the next morning. When Carly didn't come down to attend her duties, Janice climbed the stairs. The room was tidy, though the bed was unmade. And a small can containing assorted pens and pencils lay scattered in front of the desk that stood against the attic door.

"Harumph, third one in six months. Afraid of a little work."




Saturday, August 8, 2015

Tempus Fugit

This week's offering for Master Class Monday at EatSleepWrite. I chose the prompt; Waylaid Mutterings.
I also took inspiration from The Light and Shade Challenge. The prompts were a photo of a grandfather's clock and the quotation; Tempus Fugit.

Christian lost his concentration, his muttered chanting waylaid by the three percussive chimes of the grandfather clock downstairs still reverberating in his ears. Blinking in confusion he unfolded his legs and pushed his aching muscles to stand. He stretched his shoulders as he shuffled across the room, heedless of the thin line of salt scattered by his feet.

He stumbled into the dark hallway and found his way to the bathroom. Flipping the switch, Christian sighed in annoyance at its refusal to shed light. Reaching for the cold water handle he was greeted not with water but a dry gurgle.

He stomped downstairs to the front window and yanked the drapes open. He scanned his neighbors' homes for signs of power. The street was in darkness, no porch lights, no street lamps. His attention was drawn to several junk yard worthy vehicles sitting randomly along the street. Christian's mood shifted slowly from anger to puzzlement. A power outage, not unheard of, but someone parking junk cars in a neighborhood was bizarre. 

With the power down the house was eerily silent. The only sound came from the clock, its pendulum whispering back and forth in the narrow space. How long had it been? He remembered sitting within the pentagram and lighting candles. He'd started the memorized chant, the one that promised to make the world a better place. 

He bounded back up the stairs. Entering the room he'd recently left, opened the curtain to let the sparse light from a waning moon into the room. The candles had burnt to the bottom. Christian huffed to himself, "Five day candles? Yeah, right!"

He returned to the lower floor, this time going into the kitchen. If there was no electricity, he ought to eat before everything spoiled. The refrigerator door took an extra tug to open, as it did Christian was greeted with a small dust cloud that reeked of mold.

"What the hell?" he cried. His limited vision couldn't determine the contents and he wasn't inclined to stick his hands into the unknown depths. Slamming the offending appliance shut, he wandered to the back door. Grabbing the knob, he stood a moment, an odd tingle of fear keeping his hand from turning it.

Pushing down the uncomfortable feeling, Christian threw the door open and stepped onto the small concrete stoop. The silence of the dark pressed against him. He held his breath as he listened for the sound of distant traffic, the scamper of a rodent, the creak of tree limbs. He heard nothing. No breeze moved, the air was sterile and tasteless. 

Paranoia won and Christian bolted back inside, locking the door behind him.

He paced the room, mumbling to himself, "Wait for daylight, ask the neighbors what's going on. Walk uptown, find a newspaper. Stop being a wuss!"

A chill filled the space, stopping Christian's internal rant. His heart pounding he closed his eyes and uttered a prayer that was ironic in its direct opposition to the chant he'd recited previously. 

A guttural laugh silenced him. "Too late to switch sides now, Christian. You've done well. The world is a much better place." The voice mocked him.

Christian dropped to his knees, "How long has it been? I have to know." he asked through chattering teeth. 

"Twenty years. It takes a lot of chanting to accomplish a change of this magnitude." A snide chuckle accompanied the startling statement. "Time flies when you're having fun, right?"










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?