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


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.