Fiction

The Mailing Factory

He just wants to wash his hands. Why won’t they go away, leave him be, let him wash his damn hands? The vein is throbbing in his temple again, he can feel it and he knows that anyone who looks at him will be able to see it, writhing like a worm under the thin skin. Any attention is unwanted attention, but anything that draws attention to his tenuous grasp on control is doubly so. If they would just stop, if they would just be quiet and let him scrub under his fingernails, he knows he could breathe through it, that he could get that vein back under control where it belongs. Why won’t they just give him a minute? He hadn’t intended to run behind schedule this morning, but when opportunity presents itself, well, he would be ungrateful if he didn’t take advantage of it. If he had just gotten here one minute earlier, if he had been able to wash his hands before clocking in, he wouldn’t feel like they were on fire, he would be able to lose himself in the repetitive whirring of the laser printer and let the beast sleep for just these few hours. Why won’t they go away?

***

Alex glanced over at Tobias, a little disdainful, a little fearful. The strange little barrel chested man stood at his ink jet machine for eight hours straight every day; he didn’t take breaks, or go to the food truck for lunch with any of his co-workers. Alex honestly wasn’t even sure if he’d ever seen Tobias go to the bathroom during a shift. It was no skin off his nose, either way the time allotted for breaks was deducted from the payroll, but it was weird, and Alex liked things to slot neatly into their places. Tobias didn’t slot neatly into anything, including the ill-fitting outfit he habitually wore everyday.

Mentally shrugging off the uncomfortable feeling that always floated around him when he was near Tobias, Alex turned back to the prospective customers. “As you can see, this machine basically runs itself. An experienced operator can have it programmed within ten minutes, and, depending on the paper stock you choose, have it running a minimum of 250 addresses per hour. I’m familiar with your market. I know that your location does corporate mailers and individual store flyers approximately every two weeks, which is why I’m showing you this particular machine. For the volume you guys deal in, it’s a perfect fit. We run three straight shifts here, so we’d be able to run your jobs 24/7, which I happen to know your current business associates cannot do.”

“Mmmmm.” Robert made a non-committal sound. He was pretty sure that Alex thought his little smiles were ingratiating, when what they were, were smug and unduly self-satisfied. He wished that he could do business based on principle, because he really didn’t want to shake the smarmy floor manager’s hand again. Alas, what they were offering would shave off about 25% from his marketing costs, and Robert did love himself a tidy little bonus at the end of the quarter. Still, he didn’t want to make it too easy. He stepped forward, peered over Tobias’s shoulder at the shiny paper currently whizzing across the mini conveyor belt and slotting itself into neat bundles. “With a job running this fast, what’s your procedure for quality checks?”

This was a typical question, and as he hadn’t intended it to be a slight, Robert was a little taken aback at Tobias’s reaction. He watched his shoulders stiffen, his hands flex over the machines controls and then squeeze into fists. He swiveled from the waist, slowly, making it look more like a contortion than a turn. His face mere inches from Robert’s, he growled at him, low and threatening.

“Tobias!” Alex, shocked, quickly stepped forward and tugged at Robert’s arm, pulling him back a step. “What in the hell, man? I’m so sorry,” he continued, looking over at Robert. “I, uh, I, I don’t know what, I don’t…” he trailed off. “I’m so sorry,” he repeated. He gestured the two men back towards his office, indicating he would join them momentarily. He took a few deep breaths, completely unsure of his next move. There had been something animalistic and frankly a little terrifying in the look behind Tobias’s eyes, and his managerial training at the Lane Williamson School of Business had not equipped him to deal with frightening employees who growled at customers.

***

As Robert closed the door to Alex’s fastidious little room of the ruler, Jacob burst out laughing. “What in the actual fuck was that? That guy seriously looked like he wanted to bite a chunk out of your face!” He tucked his longish, sandy blond hair behind his ear. “Sorry, I know it’s not really funny, but that was maybe one of the weirdest things I’ve ever seen.”

Robert was a little more shaken than he had realized at first. Jacob had hit it on the head, though, he thought. The guy had given off a vibe that said that two seconds more would have had him doing just that. “I really think he wanted to. I really think that guy wanted to bite my face off.” His voice was a little unsteady, and that irritated him. “Some odd violent tendency working at a mailing factory wanted to bite my face off because I asked him a question about an ink jet printer.” He supposed he was trying to normalize the situation by saying it out loud, stating it as fact, but that didn’t make it any less strange, or make him feel any less uncomfortable. He wandered over to the little window that looked out on the shop floor, standing shoulder to shoulder with Jacob as they watched Alex actually wring his hands as he debated what to say to Tobias.

***

Alex stuttered a few times, still not knowing what to say. Tobias had turned back to his machine, pulling a stack of brochures from the sorted bundles, performing the very quality check that Robert had asked about. Alex could hear, very faintly, that he was still growling softly, and that the hands that normally flipped so deftly through the papers that he didn’t even have to stop the machine to re-load the feeder were shaking. “Tobias,” he said. “It’s time for you to go.” He hadn’t known that those were the words that were about to come out of his mouth, but discovered as he said them that there really was no alternative. An employee who growled at prospective customers, one who behaved threateningly, well, that just wasn’t someone that he could in good conscience keep around. Decision made, he spoke more firmly to the man who hadn’t acknowledged that he was being spoken to. “Tobias, you have to leave. I’m afraid that the behavior that you just displayed is unacceptable, and you’ll need to shut the job down and go home.”

He didn’t even have time to scream.

***

“Holy fuck!” Jacob grabbed Robert’s wrist so hard he felt his bones grind against each other, and started yelling so fast that his words became one long litany of breathless profanity. “Holy fucking shit holy fucking shit holy fucking shit what the fuck jesus fucking Christ what the fuck!”

Robert yanked his arm free and dove for the phone on Alex’s desk, but halfway there he decided locking the door first would be prudent, and changed direction in mid-lunge like an ungainly bird that had forgotten how to fly. He jabbed at the locking mechanism in the door knob a few times before he actually managed to engage it and ran back to the phone. He punched in 911 and danced from foot to foot while he waited for the operator. “Jesus, Jacob, what’s the fucking address here? I don’t know where we are, I don’t remember where we are!” He looked around wildly, there had to be letterhead, a business card, something. “Jacob!”

“911, what’s your emergency?”

There was reverberating thump behind him, and even though it was the last thing he wanted to do, Robert turned to face the window. He saw Jacob hunkered down on the floor below it, trying to retch quietly, and as his eyes slowly tracked up the first explanation his brain provided was that obviously someone had spilled a can of red paint all over the man who currently had his palms splayed out against the glass.

“Hello, this is 911, what’s your emergency?”

Red spattered teeth bared in a grin, and Robert thought distantly that it was strange that he even got paint in his mouth, that had to taste awful. “I, yes, I have an emergency.” He stopped and gaped as the monstrosity on the other side of the please dear god thick paned window opened his mouth wide and hocked out what Robert thought at first was just a mouthful of blood. “A man just spit out another man’s nose.”

***

Tobias loped away, heading for the docks and an escape route where the security cameras were broken and only left up for show. He would have thought that this morning’s unexpected bounty would have kept him full for a few more days at least, but all of a sudden he was just so damn hungry.

***

Brought to you courtesy of Skinny Puppy, The Process and Vivi Sect VI

Categories: Fiction | Tags: , | Leave a comment

celestina dances

inside the tree trunks, bleached white and spotted with age, kneel old men. Even though they are creaky, their limbs are sinewy and well defined. They genuflect inside the trunks, feet rooted into the earth, toenails tangled with roots until one is not discernible from the other, heads bent. They have beards, knotted and dread-locked, that dangle between their knees, clumps dancing forward and back with each inhale and exhale. The old men are tired, and wish to retire.

from a distance, a reedy and melodious whistle floats along the breeze, teasing ears and quickening minds long passed into a meditative state. The dawn comes, and spring breaks. The whistling dances closer, and becomes a song. The old men do not move, except for their faces, where smiles spread and break through wrinkled cheeks. Celestina comes.

she pirouettes through the dappled light on the muddy ground, arms extended in graceful arches, gliding as fluidly as water around a rock. The dirt does not bother her; she revels in spinning on tiptoes in the mud, the soft and loving squelch and the smell of good, clean earth drifting up. In her wake, trailing in the notes of her music as surely as the rats enthralled by the Piper, are the children.

Their voices remain hushed and reverential, but within those boundaries of respect bordering on awe, is the joyful shriek and commotion of children everywhere, the ecstasy of being alive. Now that they are in sight of the trees, they are freed from their restraints and run towards them, somersaulting and leaping over each other, good natured shoving and tumbling, laughter everywhere. They dive into the soft ground at the trees bases, wiggling and squiggling until they pop up in between the feet of the old men.

Dirty hands on old cheeks, the children place kisses on each eyelid of each old man, bidding them to open and to see again. The old men smile wider as they welcome the youth to their new homes, returning the kisses with gentle, scratchy bearded pecks before rising slowly to their full heights. Arms elongate and fingers stretch as they lift their hands towards the sky, gnarled knuckles inhabiting branches and twigs, mixing and merging until all is one and the same.

In the heady rush of becoming temporary guardians, the children go wild. They sing and scream and holler back and forth as they dance around their tree’s trunk, inside and out, to the edges of the smallest, barren twig and back. Budding and growth, color seeping into leaves until a riot of color blooms across the forest like a rolling wave crashing across the horizon.

Celestina dance. Spring comes.

Categories: Fiction | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

blurred boundaries

slip-slide into dreams
roughshod into the light,
popping stitches and bursting seams.

one doesn’t end, one doesn’t begin,
Ouroboros waking,
rising, consuming, without to within.

edges blending into light,
particles dancing,
panicked with delight.

one moment to ponder,
if meaning, then life,
if not, to wander.

Categories: Fiction, Poetry | Tags: | 2 Comments

Curled up

Waking on an island, more aptly called a person sized pebble, they feel smooth stone underneath their cheek. Their knees are pulled up under their chin and their strong arms are wrapped protectively around their middle. There is a light without source to illuminate their space and they are grateful. They do not mind being alone, but they would prefer not to be so in the dark.

The dreams and cries of billions make up their roof overhead, a featureless dome of sound and thought. They think at first their dreams are up there too, until they feel them still inside their skull, papery moth wings beating gently against the walls of their cage. They find that they have not yet found the key to releasing those dreams into the wild, letting them fly free, and this they regret, just a little. They know that once those dreams are given the freedom to take flight, to flock within the turbulent masses overhead, that those dreams, their dreams, will be subsumed by the whole, either to take root and sprout their own little daydream babies or to dissipate into the cacophony.

They discern that perhaps the key they have yet to turn is hidden within acceptance, that they will never know the fate of their dreams until they are allowed to roam and explore the corners of their world; that to let dreams outgrow their fishbowl is to allow them to mutate, to give blessing the influence of yet more dreams. They are not quite ready for this yet.

As the dreams beat ever more incessantly, insistently, demandingly, to be given fresh sights to see, they smile quietly and tighten their arms around their middle, pull their knees up just a little bit closer to the chin. They will hold them close, just this little while longer, on this island, alone.

Categories: Fiction | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Granny’s Graveyard Stew

The old woman heard the mutters and the lightly placed footsteps creeping up the gravel path; her gnarled knuckles tightened around the ladle as she continued to stir her pot, switching to widdershins while thin lips twisted into a sardonic smile. Always they came, and always they left, running with their screams trailing behind them, the speed of sound not able to keep up with the speed of terrified feet. She never could figure why, what with how smart they certainly seemed to think they were, that they never figured out that there was no way to quietly sneak down a gravel road, and that it was well nigh impossible to sneak up on a witch.

She blinked a few times and a glamour settled over the former rectory like a set dressing. Fat black candles became slim, white tapers, dark grimoires became cookbooks, and the broom that leaned against the back wall became, well, it stayed a broom, but it stopped vibrating as it normally did while waiting to be ridden at midnight. As the dingy rune covered window-shades morphed into filmy pink curtains covered with pictures of kittens, the front door was shoved open hard enough to hit the opposite wall with a bang so loud it even surprised the man who had done the shoving.

“Conjurer!” he screamed, pointing a finger so accusatory she felt it like a poke in the back from across the room and had to fight to keep the smile on her face as she turned to face this latest mob. A motley crew it was, too, she thought to herself as she got a good look. Either the village was inbreeding all courage and manliness from its population, or there just weren’t many left who hadn’t already visited her. They never did return for seconds.

The four men behind him bumbled and stumbled into his back when he froze, just inside the doorway, gaping in slack-jawed disbelief at the homey, and pink, décor. This went against all that he had learned of witches and enchantresses at his Mam’s knee. While the woman herself fit his imagination with her warts and craggy brown teeth (in reality, she was quite a lovely older woman, with gently waving grey hair and only fine lines bracketing the corners of her eyes; the illusion was just an extra bit of good fun for her), her surroundings were disconcertingly saccharine.

“Gentlemen,” she called out gaily. “You’ve arrived just in time for lunch! Oh, I’m so happy to have you here. I’m afraid that having lunch with the same people all the time rather deadens the conversational possibilities! You five look like a fine, lively bunch!” She gestured with her ladle, waving them in and towards the table, grinning inwardly at her clever wordplay. “I’ve got a wonderful pot of stew here I’ve just finished stirring, I insist you sit at once and have a bowl. The rest of my guests should be here any moment, but we needn’t wait on them. Sit, sit!”

Raised to be polite and say things like yes ma’am, thank you ma’am, the men were awkwardly shuffling forward and towards the table before they’d really begun to process whether or not this was a great idea and how had they gone from decrying a Satanist to eating stew with her in a scant few seconds. Before the fifth man’s ass had even hit his chair, the old woman was swooping in with almost over-filled wooden bowls of fragrant stew to place in front of them, chattering all the while, distracting them from the parade of zombies making their way down the gently sloping hill towards the always open back door.

“Rrrnnnggghhhh,” said the first one in. She’d long since stopped trying to do exact translations of their grunts and groans, but guessed closely enough that he was saying something along the lines of, mmmm that smells good. Or maybe it was who the hell is in my chair, how in the hell was she supposed to know? The other zombies bounced gently off of his back in a slow motion parody of what the accusers had done upon their entrance. Eventually they broke around him in a wave of rotting flesh and ambled towards the table.

She turned back towards the villagers with a fierce and pointed smile. “Granny’s Graveyard Stew, m’boys. Smells good enough to wake the dead.”

*****

FINALLY! I got something written in time to meet the Deadline, and this time I’ll remember the cutoff for the voting! Goodness me, but life can make zombies out of all of us upon occasion….

The above picture (which is really, really cool by the way) and the (noun) word stew were our prompts for this week’s Grammar Ghoul Press Mutant 750 Challenge. Go here and read awesome stuff 🙂 http://www.grammarghoulpress.com/gg-writing-challenge-18/

Categories: Fiction | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

What’s Left

I want to rage but you want to cry,
and so I whimper.
I want to sing but you want to sleep,
and so I whisper.

You win by default, never warning me
your compromises are comprised
of a hundred tiny deaths.

Categories: Fiction, Poetry | Tags: , , , , , | 25 Comments

Moral Compass

Mother has been through my writings again, I can tell. It is only a personal diary. She really should not hold against me the things that I write simply for my own edification. I no longer have anyone to converse with, and so I must create my philosophies within the confines of my own mind.

It is raining again today. Every time I feel that I have Mother convinced that I should be let out for some fresh air, it rains. I am starting to believe that she times her acquiescence with the likelihood of precipitation. I do not believe that she wants to let me out. I do not know if I shall ever get out again. I know that she is afraid, both for me and of me, and I cannot say that I blame her. That does not mean that I am not angry about it. These walls grow closer together with every passing day.

There was a time when she thought that it could be controlled, that I could be controlled. That time passed, rather long ago I admit, and I am not happy. I have put so much effort forth to be other than I am, to no avail. Failing that, I worked to conceal it, to allow a film down over my eyes so that the urges buried in my soul were not on display. This failed as well, excepting one memorable experiment that most likely cannot be repeated as Mother now keeps the only key to my door upon a chain around her neck.

She does bring me things to brighten up my lonely days. She brings me small animals, sometimes. Pets, she calls them, though she never asks what I plan to name them, and very obviously refuses to notice that they are no longer keeping me company when next she returns. She is most certainly playing the willful ignorant, as the small collection of sharpened bones that had been squirreled away underneath my mattress is now gone and the dumbwaiter frequently reeks of bleach when I pull up my supper.

Earlier today I heard a woman’s voice that I did not recognize, through the door at the bottom of the attic stairs. The tantalizing lilt of Ireland sang through it as she answered Mother’s murmured directive. “Yes, Miss, I swear to you that I will never try this door again.” Despite the gloom outside of my barred window, I feel that my burden may be lightened, soon. It is nearly a given that Mother was not explicit with the woman when delivering her warning, and where there is a crack I may find a way to slide through it.

I do wonder that Mother did not bother to mention to me that our missing maid had been replaced.

Categories: Fiction | Tags: , , , | 13 Comments

It’s Tea Time

Mal pulled a face as he took a swig of bitterly brewed tea.

“Here, look, I’ll spoon some sugar in or summat,” said Vaj, pushing one of the many strangely shaped buttons on his newly acquired multi-purpose tool. It glowed a dull orange every time an instrument flicked out.

“S’ like a Swiss Army knife, innit? How many doohickeys that thing have?” asked Mal.

Vaj shrugged bony brown shoulders. “Dunno, do I? I ‘aven’t pushed all the buttons yet, yeah?”

Vaj and Mal were professional grave robbers. Well, as professional as you can be when there’s no guild or union to join to make it official-like. They’d made up business cards, painstakingly cutting out uneven cardboard squares, hand-lettering each one in blocky print: Don’t Let Them Take It To Their Graves. It was amazing, really, the number of disgruntled family members who hung about cemeteries, whining. “I can’t believe Aunt Mildred was buried with that diamond brooch” or “Really, how greedy for Uncle Harold to wear that emerald stick pin in his coffin!”.

It was one such group, clustered away from other mourners, that had scored Vaj his new gadget. Five men, dressed in mourning grey, hats pulled low over pallid faces, murmuring in undertones carrying sparks of anger. Overhearing a random snippet of conversation, “it was OURS, it wasn’t HIS”, Mal had sidled over and pulled a card out from under his crushed cap with his version of a poncy flourish, tucking it into one of their breast pockets. Before he had the chance to execute what he liked to call his exit swagger, one of the men called him back.

“Oy, you, c’mere then!” The man beckoned with a talon-like hand. Surprised but pleased, Mal instead used his swagger to return to the huddle.

The man who had called to him gestured towards a large mausoleum, spotlighted in a beam of watery sunshine in the northeast corner of the grounds. “Your, uh, expertise. Does it extend beyond digging up dirt? What we need retrieved, it’s in there, not in the ground.”

Mal nodded. “Sure sure, just trade shovels out for crowbars, yeah?” Not that they’d ever done it before but he wasn’t about to admit that in front of these gentleman, who gave him a case of the heebie-jeebies. “Wot you need outta there, then?”

They had drawn Mal into their circle, whispering at and to each other, epithets directed at the dead man, and finally instructions. “You will find a number of strange looking devices within Branson’s coffin. We only wish to have one of them returned. The rest, should you be able to figure out their usage, belong to you and your partner. They will be your payment.”

Mal held his hands up. “Sounds a bit like Jack and his magic beans, mate. My partner and I deal in currency. You know, real payment for services rendered. Yer tryina tell me we might just end up with bits of junk that we can’t even figure out? How are we supposed to be able to turn that into profit?”

“Ah, but did not Jack end up with the Golden Goose?” It was a different man who spoke this time, although he looked much like the first man, and seemed rather pleased with his rejoinder.

In the end, Mal was swayed, and although Vaj did more than his fair share of complaining, they had duly gone to work with their crowbars. Once inside the mausoleum, they had discovered only one coffin inside; a large varnished box with intricately carved flourishes, set in the center of a marble dais. To their delight, there were no locks or seals to fight with and the lid opened smoothly on well oiled hinges.

Tucked in around the dead man there were indeed a ridiculous number of odd looking widgets and gizmos, like someone had upended a robot’s toy box in along with the body. Vaj reached for the only one that was even remotely recognizable.

“Look, this ones got a corkscrew on, and a little spoon, ha. What’s this one for though?” He punched at a button with a rectangular pictograph, but nothing happened. He shrugged. “C’mon, let’s just scoop up the lot of ’em, figure out how to make ’em work at home.”

****

Many miles away, in Amesbury, a startled group of tourists stumbled backwards as a slow, grinding sound rose from the ground. A swirling whirlpool of earth opened up, and a girl screamed.

“Stonehenge just fell down!”

***

I admit that I had a hard time finding inspiration from the prompts for Grammar Ghoul challenge #9- which is the entire point, of course, of having writing CHALLENGES. So kudos, Ghouls, this one stumped me, and I’m not sure how well I did 😉

The prompt word this week was ‘spoon’, and the visual prompt was a really adorable (because camels) short film that you can watch here, called The Egyptian Pyramids:

Categories: Fiction | Tags: , , , | 14 Comments

Cresting the Summit

Sarah felt like the beleaguered heroine in a Greek tragedy. She muttered as she searched for toeholds, fingers digging in to grip at the soft surface of the mountain she was scaling, trying to remember who the hell it was that had to do the whole boulder bullshit. She knew it was a he, and that he had to push this big ass rock to the top of a mountain over and over again, since it rolled all the way back down every time he reached the top. Well, whatever the hell his name was, that’s who she felt like. Prometheus? No, that was the fire guy who got his guts pecked out every day. Or his eyes. Maybe some days she felt like him, too, but that’s not who she was thinking of. Trying to figure it out was a welcome distraction from overthinking her current predicament, so she didn’t mind overmuch that she hadn’t landed on the right name yet.

A rank smell assaulted her nose each time she was stupid enough to forget not to breathe through it. “Phaw!” she yelled, smacking her lips, actually tasting the stink in the back of her throat. Bits of grimy crust stuck underneath her fingernails; bits of what, she didn’t want to know. She just wanted to put her head down and concentrate on reaching the summit.

She shuddered in fear that yet again, once she reached the top of this mountain, all she would see would be another, and another, stretching towards infinity, no end in sight. Searching inside herself, she was dismayed to realize that she really didn’t know how much longer she could keep this up. There was a part of her that just wanted to snuggle into a crevice, crusty smelly bits and all, and let herself be buried alive. It was hard to keep going, hard to traverse an entire mountain range that had just sprung up over night. She would have sworn that yesterday there was only a single mountain, more of a hill, really, nothing insurmountable. Then, some time during the night, she had heard voices, a rustling born upon a rumbling, and next thing you know…

She silenced her inner wuss, drowning the voice out with more muttering. “There’s gotta be an endgame, Sarah, just shut up and get to it, just a few more feet to the top.” It was a comforting lie to tell herself, as distance appeared to be relative in this landscape and she had no idea how far away it truly was.

With dogged determination, she grabbed and slipped, lifted and dug in, until finally she could flop herself over onto a plateau with all the grace of a slug. She scrambled to her knees, exhausted but driven by the need to see. She gained her feet slowly as she realized that she had finally reached the end – down this side was gloriously flat land. Energy rebounding, she pumped her fists in the air and hooted. “I’m done!” she yelled, doing an ill-advised happy dance on unstable terrain.

Down she went, ass over tea kettle, around and around and around. “Oh, well,” she thought, “at least I’m falling in the right direction.”

She caught up against something cushioned yet firm, and lay there until her whirling thoughts and dizzy limbs calmed. She glanced to the right and found herself looking under a couch and into a pair of feline eyes, blinking mere inches from her own. She reached out, scratched under his chin.

“Come on Sisyphus. I finally finished the damn laundry. Time for the dishes.”

Categories: Fiction | Tags: , , , , | 8 Comments

Aging Ungracefully

Flames lick the ground behind her, lascivious tongues of flame laving furrows of black and red and she stumbles her way from the forest, towards the road. The heat is oppressive, a dance that’s spun out of her control; what she thought she had held firmly under her thumb is writhing its way out, a filament at a time. Each breath weighs in her lungs after it tears through her throat, like swallowing dry bricks of gun powder, particle filled combustibles that float back through her cracked lips as she wheezes out and huffs, and digs for just a few more strides.

It was a game, just a game, she thinks, desperately searching for a path through the underbrush to lead her to fresh air. Her shoulders hunch forward as branches creak and crack and crash, the groan of the trees before they lose their limbs rumbling Earth gods challenging her to outrun their burning, wayward children. She has overstayed her welcome in this land.

A flash, matte black, a split second glimpse when she dashes around a half hidden lump of a log. She changes direction mid-stride, careening with feckless abandon, high stepping across the hot ground lest she be caught up by something hidden under the ashy debris.

She bursts through the tree line, tries to whoop and ends bent double, hacking and spitting polluted breath. She decides that breathing freely is freedom bellow enough. Before she pulls herself upright, she catches a susurrus from the corner of her ear that has nothing to do with fire. She looks up.

A dusting of snow glitters across the road, frozen motes dancing upwards on a wafting breeze. Coalescing, they swirl hypnotically, snaking across the asphalt away from her. She watches, rapt, as these snow snakes meet and twirl upwards, ribboning together, a form emerging from their wintry midst.

As the trees stood as Earth gods, so she too is a goddess, a goddess of the Sky, of Snow and of Ice. Her hair is carved in glittering whorls; her smile, when it breaks across her face, is tantalizing, terrifying, in equal measure.

“You must cross the road, at some point.” Her words strike the air with the ting of falling icicles, and the girl blanches.

“But…but…I would freeze. I have no protection.” She is not ready to be frozen in place, she does not want to be molded as this beautiful goddess is molded. Not yet.

The glacial goddess inclines her head. “This is the truth. I am implacable, yet not without mercy. You may bring a spark with you when you cross, so that you may remain fluid.”

Nervous now, the girl starts at a sting on her ankle, automatically reaching down towards the tender spot. A teardrop of flame clings to her finger, clambers into her palm with a purpose of movement and sits there, warming without harming, and glows happily.

“This will protect me?” she asks, although she already feels tenderly towards the tiny drop, and wants to protect it in turn.

“If you do not forget to nurture it.”

“Then I will cross.” She places a bare foot on the frozen road, and takes a tentative step.

Categories: Fiction | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

Blog at WordPress.com.