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Drip, drip, drip

“Fish got to swim, birds got to fly, I got to love one man ‘til I die…”

The needle skipped.

“…that man of mine.”

The music and a steady drip, drip, drip from the living room were the only sounds in the house.

The front door slammed open. “Police!”

“Tell me I’m crazy, maybe I know…”

The two men sidled in carefully. “This is the police! We had a report of screaming. Is anyone here?”

Drip, drip, drip.

One of the men stepped into the living room and then dashed outside to vomit over the railing.

“God.” The other man was looking at the source of the dripping noise.

The first man came back in, already calling in the murder team. The two men proceeded to clear the rest of the house; no one else was there.

“Home without him ain’t no home to me…”

“Turn that thing off. Use gloves and move carefully, but make the music stop. I can’t stand it.”

Both men sighed when the music went silent.

Drip, drip, drip.

“Let’s go outside and wait.”

One stood on the front porch, one on the back.

Inside the house, there was nothing alive anymore.

For the Scriptic prompt exchange this week, Eric Storch gave me this prompt: Write whatever comes to mind from the words: “There is nothing”.

I gave Andrea this prompt: Someone else is in control of a huge decision that will change the course of your life.

A smile

“This is a stupid superhero power!”

“At least you aren’t aquaman.”

“Aquaman was a putz, but he had cool powers. He could talk to sea creatures and stuff. I can destroy things.”

“So can the Hulk, and everyone likes him.”

“Argh. Don’t I get a say in this?”

“It’s just how people come out. You got hit by weird lightning and it changed you. Just think – if they could figure out how to harness the energy you produce, you could power a small town!”

“And in the meantime I have to not smile. Ever.”

He snickered. “Okay, so that part is pretty funny.”

“I blow out every fuse in the area. I can take out transformers. I just point my teeth at it or something like that. It’s stupid.”

“Well, yeah, on some level. Maybe the government will find a use for you. You can get invited to important parties, smile at everyone, cause a blackout, and in the ensuing chaos other agents can steal important papers.”

“After the first or second time I did it, they’d make everyone smile before they were allowed in.”

“I’m sure they could figure out some way to block it until you can use it. You’ve only had the power for a few days. It will take some getting used to.”

“Says you. How would you know? You don’t have a stupid superpower. You can touch people and make them go to sleep.”

“It goes through my hands. Think about how frustrating that is when I’m trying to, well, you know…”

“Ew! You’re my brother. I don’t want to know.”

“It sucks. Or, in your case blows.” He started laughing at his pun, and she grinned reluctantly, carefully not showing her teeth.

“Okay, whatever. You can help me figure out how to use it for good or something. This is so stupid. I’m a teenager and I feel like I should superglue my lips together.”

“It’ll be fine, sis. We’ll figure it out.”

For the Scriptic prompt exchange this week, lisa gave me this prompt: Her smile could light up the world on even its darkest day..

I gave Chelle this prompt: Pull out the nearest book, open it to the sixth page, take the fourth sentence, and incorporate that into a piece of fiction.

A door opens

The door was opening!

The radiation counters outside had calmed down to a reasonable level over the 50 years that the remaining humans had been living in bunkers, surviving only because they had learned to recycle everything and keep the birth rate exactly equal to the death rate. It hadn’t been easy, but it was done. No one was completely sure that the gadgets still worked, though, so everyone who could climbed into suits and hoped they wouldn’t have to wear them for long.

Today was the day the rest of the world became a reality. Today, if the counters were right, they could head out towards the other bunkers. They’d been talking to these people for years, but no one knew what they looked like.

About half of the people waited behind the blast door. Those who were suited up stood in the airlock, waiting nervously. The mayor slowly pushed open the door to the outside and everyone winced. The sun was brighter than anyone had imagined.

The mayor stepped tentatively through the door, holding a just-opened counter saved for this day. It agreed with the other counters; the radiation level had come down enough to be safe. The rest of the group crowded out when she waved them forward.

They stood on a small hill overlooking miles and miles of emptiness. Grasses and grains grew everywhere. Small trails indicated animal life, but no human had stepped foot on this earth in half a century.

The mayor took off her helmet and took a deep breath. Tears coursed down her cheeks. “It smells green,” she whispered. She took off the rest of the suit and stood in the wind, laughing and crying.

The others soon followed. Once they were free of the suits, they touched plants, picked up dirt and crumbled it between their fingers, and splashed in a small stream they discovered at the foot of the hill.

The blast doors were opened and the rest of the survivors emerged. One picked a flower and held it to the sun, marveling at the colors and texture. The world was new again; perhaps this time humans could avoid trying to destroy it.

For the Scriptic prompt exchange this week, Maya Bahl gave me this prompt: Out of the ground, a flower emerges!

I gave Barb Black this prompt: Sandman

Storytime

“…and they lived happily ever after.”

The little girl’s eyes opened.

“I thought you were asleep.” Her father smiled at her.

“Papa, it’s not the end of the story.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, they got married. Did they have babies? That’s their story, too.”

“When do you think a story ends?”

She frowned. “Maybe not until all the people who knew them die.”

“What about the people we still remember, like Mozart or Aristotle? No one is still alive who knew them, but they still have an impact on people who are alive now.”

“Their stories aren’t done yet.” She thought for a moment. “Maybe I’ll do something that means my story goes on forever.”

“Maybe so.” He kissed her forehead. “G’night, bug.”

“‘Night, papa.”

For the Scriptic.org prompt exchange this week, Barb Black gave me this prompt: This isn’t the end of the story. and I gave Bewildered Bug this prompt: As she watched, the lizard slowly crept over his arm.

Companionship

She was sitting at the bar looking tired and lost. She was also quite attractive, though he was sure she didn’t feel particularly interesting right then. He knew he could change that, at least. He was good at that. Everyone seemed to think of him as a harmless old widow, but a surprising number ended up in bed with him. He smiled, remembering a few of his more interesting companions.

The stool next to her was empty. He walked up to the bar a few seats away and began chatting with the bartender. He was here often enough that they conversed easily. The bartender was a young, handsome man who seemed amused by the considerably older man’s ability to coax women to bed. Both of them had standards; neither would sleep with a married woman or even one just involved with someone else. They weren’t willing to hurt anyone, and, in a world of rakes and rogues, that gave them a place to begin a friendship.

After a few minutes of light banter, the older gentleman looked over at the woman. “Hello, my dear. Would you mind if I sat next to you? I’m rather short on company tonight and you look like you could use someone to talk to.”

She blinked up at him, surprised and a little wary. Her expression softened as she took in his appearance. He was at least seventy years old, quite dapper, and he had a kind face with many laugh lines. He looked comforting and comfortable. She did not enjoy people hitting on her, but he seemed genuinely interested in her company, not just her cleavage. 

“Sure, why not.” She smiled.

“You should do that more often. It brings out the green of your eyes when they catch the light. May I buy you a drink, since I’m taking up your time?”

“Um, sure, I guess. I’ll have a gin and tonic.” She sounded slightly wary now, suddenly not as sure as she had been that his intentions were honorable.

Over the next two hours, she changed her opinion again. He really was a sweet old man. His wife had been dead for about ten years, but when he talked about her there was still joy and love in his voice and his face. They had been together for almost forty years, had three children, and had traveled extensively. She, in turn, told him about her breakup six months ago. She had not been happy, really, but she hadn’t expected him to cheat on her, either, and she was still recovering from that blow to her ego. She was a nurse and loved her work. Some days, like today, she was exhausted by the end of her shift. She worked hard and did well, but it was a difficult profession, especially since she did not have family or really close friends in the area. She had moved here five months ago, determined to start over and make a better life for herself, but it was not moving very quickly. She listened avidly to his travel stories and wished she could visit some of the exotic places he described. He did not ply her with drinks, but he paid whenever she asked for another. Near the end of the evening she switched to fruit juice so she could sober up and get home safely.

He walked her to the door of the bar and told her how much he had enjoyed the evening. She found herself thinking about how nice it would be to see him again.

Over the next two weeks, they saw each other three more times, always at the bar. After the third time, as their discussions carried on until closing, she impulsively asked if he would like to come over to continue talking. She did not have to work in the morning and the idea of going home to her empty apartment was suddenly too dreary to contemplate. He agreed and followed her home.

She made hot chocolate and put together a plate of crackers, cheese, and cookies. He appreciated everything and was, as always, quite courtly. She enjoyed his company, his sometimes wicked sense of humor, and his intelligence, and she felt more comfortable around him than around any man she could think of. She told him all of this when she was tipsy enough to blurt out her innermost thoughts, then blushed furiously and muster that he could just ignore that.

He gathered her into his arms and hugged her. “I take that as a high compliment, my dear. Please don’t be embarrassed.”

She leaned into him, smelling a whiff of pipe smoke and brandy. She snuggled closer as he began to rub her back. Non-sexually, she told herself, but it felt very good. It kept getting better, too. He took his time, making sure she was relaxed and happy. She looked up at him to ask if he was comfortable and found herself kissing him instead. This was not a bad thing, she decided, enjoying the kiss.

Events continued to unfold at a relaxed pace, both of them enjoying sensations and feeling relaxed and happy. At one point she stopped and said, “I’m sorry to ask this, but, well, can you get it up? I know older men sometimes have a problem.”

“Oh, no, my dear. I took my pill; I’m sure we can figure out how to get my rocket to stand up straight enough to give it a good polish.”

She laughed out loud and settled back into his arms.

They spent the night together.

The next morning, as courtly as ever, he made a simple breakfast, ate with her, and then took his leave. They agreed to meet at the bar the next week. They discussed the previous night, agreed that it was enjoyable for both parties, and agreed that neither was looking for a relationship. They parted as friends, both happier for the dalliance.


For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, Brad MacDonald challenged me with “‘I polish the rockets and swallow those pills.’-Monster Magnet” and I challenged Allyson with “‘All our kids are screaming but the ghosts aren’t real’ U2, Get On your Boots”

Famous does not equal right

Unfortunately, this guy I grew up with is now famous. He’s a star in the music world. I wish I had been nicer. Everyone who knew both of us knows that he holds a grudge and that I’m the subject. He’s still angry. He makes it very clear in his latest video. I have to hear what’s in his head.

He’s an ass.

I was the beautiful one. Not just in high school, but elementary school, too. I was the one that all the boys fell in love with. I was popular, the center of attention, a cheerleader, and not a very nice person. I’m not very nice now, either, but I am seeing a little more of what other people see. If nothing else, I will try to be more careful just so this doesn’t happen again.

He was the geek, the nerd, the guy no one wanted to be seen with. He was the person you went to if you needed help with your homework, but you never actually said hello to him in the hallway. We called him Urkel, if that makes it easier to imagine. He had a huge crush on me, and I ignored him. Every time he tried to do something nice, I would laugh at him. Sometimes I would even get other people to laugh, too. I mean, seriously. Why did he think I would pay attention to someone like him?

In the video he has me sweeping stairs at the end. That’s not true. I have a perfectly good job. I’m a secretary for a really big company. I’m good at my job, too, and I present a pretty face to the public, which always helps. People come in really angry about something, but they are always nice to me.  I might not be very smart, but I am not as low as he shows me. He’s just being mean.

I’m trying to be nicer to those people, the unattractive ones. I try to at least pretend to listen to them, and I am getting better at turning down weird looking guys more gently. I don’t laugh at them anymore. I’m engaged to a great guy who tells me I’m beautiful every single day. He has a lot of money, too, so I might not have to work a lot longer. I am smart enough to get a good lawyer for a prenuptial agreement, though. I’m not going to be dumped for someone younger and prettier when he gets tired of me.

Famous guy I grew up with? Fuck you, too. I’ll bet you aren’t nice to people now that you don’t have to be.

 
For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, R.L.W. challenged me with “Watch the music video for Cee Lo Green’s “Fuck You” – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pc0mxOXbWIU Use the song as inspiration or dress your protagonist in an outfit from the video.” and I challenged Cheney with “Wayland the Smith in the modern world. What would he be like here and now?”

Tomorrow

“Hey, kid. Sonora just broke a toe. You’re up tomorrow. Make sure you’re ready.”

Just a few words and her life was going to change drastically. She’d be going from a company dancer to a principal dancer because of a broken toe.

She called her family. “You have to come out. I know it’s a two hour drive, but I can comp your tickets, and I’m playing the Sugar Plum Fairy. This is a huge step up for me. I’ve been a snowflake for years, been the backup for Sugar Plum for the last two years, and this is my big break. I need to know you’ll be there.” She paused, listening, and then said “Oh, great! I can’t wait to see you!”

Rehearsal time. She found her partner and they started to work. They’d practiced it before, of course, but there was a new intensity now that he knew he’d be on stage with her tomorrow. They danced well together, though, and after a few run-throughs they decided that it would be fine. She checked in with costuming, glad that she was the same size as Sonora. They had her try on the costume to make sure. It fit perfectly.

She went out to the quiet, empty stage. The music played in her head as she practiced her solo parts, dressed as the Sugar Plum Fairy, spinning across the floor. Tomorrow she would be in full makeup, dancing with the whole company and the audience watching, but for the moment it was her time to feel the music and make sure there wasn’t a stumble or missed step.

She went home to her small apartment, ate a little, took a hot shower, and went to sleep, deeply happy at the thought of the next day’s stress.


For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, Sherree challenged me with “Life as you know it, will change tomorrow (and you’re not getting married).” and I challenged Tobie with “Loki and Eris”

Lonely Streets

Emptiness was not what she had expected from her first visit to a big city. Her image, of course, had been created before the disaster, but somehow a part of her mind had held onto the idea of a bustling metropolis.

The anti-vaxxers had scared a lot of people into not getting vaccinations. Herd immunity went away. The very old, very young, and those with compromised immune systems began to die off, slowly at first, then in great waves. The strains became more virulent as they had a chance to mutate, so even healthy people were being taken down.

The city was mostly empty. People lived in pocket neighborhoods, growing food on rooftop gardens so it could be protected, living in just a few houses or apartment complexes and keeping them up, letting the surrounding buildings gradually fall apart. Some groups had tentatively begun to work together to try to create more of a community throughout the city, but fear was the strongest emotion anyone had these days, so it was very difficult work.

She was a peacemaker. She worked with groups and helped them communicate. Everyone had something that someone else needed; she was one of the people who helped them figure out what that something was. She made sure everything was as fair as possible. She was an indeterminate color, neither white nor brown nor, really, anything identifiable. Her nose and hair, the two places most people looked to try to figure out a person’s identity, were not specifically one race or another. She was slightly exotic to every community, part of none, but a reasonable go-between. She had been working in smaller towns for years, but the group had decided to start working in the cities, too. This was her first.

She stood still, listening to the wind between the buildings, watching the noon light pick up reflections from the few unbroken windows. She had directions. All she had to do was walk down the lonely street, find the first group who had requested help, and start from the beginning.

Trust was difficult in these times, but humans needed it to survive. Her small group of forty people scattered over several states worked hard to bring people towards assuming the best rather than the worst of others, even others who looked nothing like them. The group had started out as a band of polyglots who had gone out to dinner a few times a month, reveling in their ability to carry on conversations in several languages. When the disaster had begun, they banded together, intellectuals in a sea of increasingly tribal communities. They began to look for a way to change things and make them better.

She spoke ten languages. Some of the others spoke more, but she was young and still learning. So far, ten had been enough; the few times she came across a group speaking a language she did not, there were words that were close enough in other languages that she could communicate. She had not yet failed to bring groups together, teaching them important pieces of each others’ languages and helping them communicate.

She was looking forward to this challenge.


For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, Indie Adams challenged me with “these lonely streets” and I challenged Bewildered Bug with “Why are numbers beautiful? It’s like asking why is Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony beautiful. If you don’t see why, someone can’t tell you. I know numbers are beautiful. If they aren’t beautiful, nothing is. – Paul Erdos”

Love from hate

My parents met over a shared hatred. I think it’s hilarious that such incredible, steadfast love came from something they both hated deeply.

I am a musician. I play four instruments. Well, five, if you count the cello, but I’ve only been learning that for a few months, so it doesn’t really apply. I am first chair in violin for an internationally recognized orchestra, and my music actually pays enough to help support my family. I consider myself lucky.

I grew up with music all around me. I could never get out of practicing; since both of my parents are musicians, there was time set aside every day for each of us to practice while the other two worked on the house, read, or commented on the music. In my case, I usually got comments and suggestions. At the time, it really bothered me, but it made me a much better musician. I still have that habit of practicing every day, and it has stood me in good stead throughout my life.

My parents met at a rally in 1979. I was surprised to hear that people hated a style of music enough to actually protest it. Of course, now we can put days of music of any variety on an iPod, but then it was live music, records, or radio. I guess when you have limited options, you get really irritated if one of the options is overwhelmed by music you don’t like. My mother was at the rally with some other guy. She cracked a joke about how many conductors it takes to change a lightbulb (no one knows – no one is watching!, if you needed the punch line) and the guy she was with didn’t laugh. My father, who was standing behind her, chuckled. He had heard the joke before, but it is a good joke, and those never get old. My mother turned around and smiled at him and they began to talk. The guy she was with wandered off eventually, overwhelmed by the musical geekitude.

My parents stayed up all night talking, happily skipping the riots, and when they went home they wrote letters. Neither had much money at the time, so running up the phone bill was not an option. That means I have months of letters back and forth, discussions about every facet of life, arguments about music, and protestations of love.

They’re so cute!

They eventually got married and settled into a life of making music and raising me. I was lucky to end up in this family. I’m not sure my talent would have flourished without the intensive practice.

The rally was against disco. In a very real way, if disco had not died, I would not be here today.


For the Indie Ink Writing Challenge this week, I was challenged by Laura with “If disco didn’t die, I wouldn’t be alive.” I challenged Kevin Wilkes with “Tell the story of the most important piece of furniture that you own.”

One small thing

For the Indie Ink Writing Challenge this week, I was challenged by Drake, who gave me the prompt “Write something about an event or situation that is common knowledge from the perspective of an inanimate object that makes people rethink how they would normally feel about it.” This week’s response was quite short, but I think it works. I challenged Debra.


There was a loud noise, and suddenly I was aware. Another noise followed almost as soon as I slammed into a wall and sank in. The sound of running feet could be heard, briefly, then silence.

Lights came on and voices began.

“Pretty straightforward. It’s a suicide. I hate these. How do you explain to someone that their family member hated life so much he wanted to do himself in? Especially this time of year.”

Another voice, lighter. “Powder burns on his skin make sense. Nothing looks weird. Let me look around a little just to be sure.”

There was the sound of rustling, paper moving, and furniture being shifted. Suddenly there was a light on me.

“Hey, boss.” The lighter voice sounded unsure. “Boss? If he was sitting over there, how did a bullet hit the wall here? And how many people miss when they’ve decided on suicide?”

Heavy steps came toward me, and another, brighter light shone into the hole.

“He couldn’t have fired a gun at that angle. It’s physically impossible.”

The lighter voice came in again, quietly. “Not ruling this a suicide, then?”

“Nope. Call the murder team and don’t touch anything.”