Archive for category Fictional Echoes

Chasing (Short Story)

I’ve been meaning to post this for most of the last week, while the Olympics were still in swing. Now, the closing ceremonies have concluded, and it will be four years before the next “good time” to post this. Here goes.

Backstory: I wrote this for a class four years ago (while the Vancouver Olympics were going on). It’s one of the few straight literary-ish stories (as opposed to genre) I wrote while getting my MA. It has it’s issues, likewise, it has it’s merits, but it’s also a capsule of appreciation for what athletes and their families go through.

It’s about 2500 words, full story below the break.

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Tentacles… Take 1

This passage comes from a story that I wrote a couple years ago, one that was a part of my MA thesis and was also the story I submitted for VP 16 this year. What you will read below is from the original draft, before it was modified to the “final” draft that had been in place since the end of that semester. Since this is out of the context of the story, what you need to know is this: the story was my first attempt at horror-ish writing, and I was pretty blatantly riffing off of HP Lovecraft’s Cthulu mythos.

The air was crisp.  He was standing on a rock surrounded by water.  There appeared to be a submerged sand bar trailing back to the beach. He lowered himself to the water, and began wading back to the shore.  The currents changed, and soon he was forced to tread water.  As the sand bar shifted under him, he began swimming to shore.

There was a stabbing pain on his legs which forced him under the water.  He looked around, forced his eyes open in the water.  There were tentacles, long, sinewy members that reached out for him from the depths, from something under the sand.  He kicked himself free and rose to the surface.  The cool air filled his lungs, biting them as he gasped, before the pain found his legs again.

He was pulled under the surface again; his arms strained to take him up.  He looked back at the tentacles, the long, dark figures reaching for him.  His arms stung as new tentacles groped for them.  He was being pulled deeper.  Above the base of the tentacles he could make out a pair of dark eyes – darker than the water surrounding them.  Below the tentacles, all he could see was a large blackness, something he was sure he wanted to avoid.

He struggled against the tentacles; the more he fought the tighter they became.  With no other options, he lowered his head, attempting to bite one of the things from his arm.  His arm had become covered in some thick material – It looked like hair, but it could have been something from the tentacles.  He wasn’t sure.   His chest tightened.   He needed oxygen, soon.  He looked up, and could barely see the surface.  He pulled his right arm to his face, craned his neck to get a good angle.  He sunk his teeth into the soft, wet tissue of the tentacle on his arm.  He felt the thing tense then loosen as his jaw clamped tighter.  He felt like a dog playing with a rope toy.   The tastes of bile and blood and salt water filled his mouth.  All that mattered was that the tentacles were letting go, and he was able to swim to the surface, towards the light dancing on the waves.

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Windows, part 1

[Originally written 1/11/2008]

John and I had been sitting on the porch for most of the afternoon, since getting home from school. The weather was too nice to stay holed up in the house, and since we had just moved to this subdivision, we didn’t have all of our games unpacked or the cable connected yet. After getting home, we decided to grab a couple of cokes from the fridge, and hang out on the porch and check out the neighbors.

 It was getting close to five, and we had each had a coke and a half. John had gone inside to make some sandwiches, since we were on our own for the week. Our parents had just gotten married – my mom and his dad – right after they closed on the house. They decided to go ahead and move everything in before they left on their honeymoon, leaving us to our school schedule and trying to unpack some of the simple things and start getting settled into our rooms.

 John and I have know each other for years through school. His folks split when we were about seven, when his mom tried to run his dad over with her car. She kept saying he was abusive, and he was having an affair, but the courts disagreed when three other men and two women stepped forward to say that she was their lover. John spent a lot of time at my house in those days, and when my dad had his heart attack, he was there for me. It didn’t really bother either of us when our parents started dating a couple of years ago.

 While I was waiting for John to come back out, I watched a car roll past the house, slowly, as if looking for something, like they were trying to count houses and make sure they were on the right street. I watched the car as it continued to the end of the street, then turned right to go to the next block. It was a deep navy blue Aston-Martin, with a dark tint on the windows.

“John,” I called.

“Yeah?” he said, coming to the door carrying our ham and turket sandwiches, and a bag of chips.

“Dude,” I started, still amazed by the sight of the car. “I just saw a sweet looking care. Dark, dark blue. Tinted windows. I swear this thing looked like an Aston Martin.”

“Yeah, right,” he said. “In this neighborhood?”

I knew exactly what he meant. There may be a lot of BMWs and some Lexuses in our neighborhood, but there were more Hondas and Fords and Toyotas. The odds of someone in our neighborhood owning an Aston Martin were about as good as the odds of winning the lottery. “I know, man, but I swear it was a Martin. The lines were just…”

“Dude?” he asked, looking at me. He turned his head to follow my gaze. The Aston Martin was back, and was slowly – even slower than before – coming up our street. It looked as though the car had circled the block before coming back. It came to a stop in front of the house. The engine, what little I could hear, was like a purr from where we were sitting.

The doors were opening. John and I were staring at the car. From the passenger side, there was a man emerging from the vehicle. He appeared to be in his mid-thirties, and in pretty good shape. He was dressed in a solid black suit, with a white shirt and black tie. His hair was closely cut. He was clean shaven, and wearing a pair of black sunglasses.

As the figure emerged from the driver’s side, though, we both let out a gasp of air. She was dressed in similar clothes as the man, only wearing a skirt instead of slacks. She wore flat shoes. Framing her face was a shoulder length mane of red hair.

I could feel my pulse start racing as they paused, looking directly at both of us before walking up the sidewalk towards us, with the woman in the lead.

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The Room

[Originally written 1/15/2008]

“She was a good kid,” the landlord says as he escorts the couple up the stairs of the old brownstone.

 “Thank you. Yes, she was,” Joan said. “She always kept in pretty good contact with us since she moved out here two years ago.” Joan starts sniffling, and raises a tissue to her face. Steve squeezes her hand.

 “We hadn’t been out here to see the new place yet. She’s only been living in this building for about six months, is that right?” Steve asks.

 “Yes, sir,” the landlord replies, “about that.” They continue up the flights of stairs, until they arrive at the fifth landing. “She lived up here. She was a pretty quiet girl, but she always seemed to be helping out some of the other neighbors and getting along alright,” Steve continues, following the hall around the corner to number 531.

 The landlord unlocks the door to the apartment, and turns to leave. “My condolences to you both. The paper says it was pretty quick, and that the other driver was at fault.” The landlord shakes Steve’s hand, then Joan’s. “I will be down in my office if you need anything,” he says, giving a key to Steve before walking away.

 Steve and Joan stand outside the door to apartment 531, holding each hands and stiffling sobs.

 “Okay,” Joan rasps, her cheeks still streaking with tears. Steve opens the door and lets Joan walk through first. They walk into the living room, eyes moist with tears, and look over the details of the tidy room. There are two closed doors off of the living room, with a third door, open, leading to a bedroom, and a fourth, also open, that looks like a bathroom. The kitchen opens directly off of the living space. “Nice place,” Joan whispers as she sits in a chair in the kitchen.

 Steve closes the door, and joins her at the table. “Whenever you feel ready, Joan,” Steve says, as much for himself as for her. She nods, still trying to take everything in.

 After an hour of sitting, staring and crying at the table, it is time to look around the apartment, and begin taking inventory of what remains. Nicole had a good job in marketing and graphic design, and was excited to be moving into a new place by herself. Joan began looking in the bedroom, while Steve looked into the other two rooms.

 The first door that Steve opens reveals an office and spare bedroom, with a daybed, a drafting table, and a desk with a laptop and printer set up. A couple of bookcases and display shelves filled out the room.

 Steve attempts to open the second door, only to find that it is locked. Steve is surprised, and begins feeling the top of the door frame for a key, finding nothing. Joan emerges from the bedroom, seeing Steve examining the door. “What?” she asks as he turns towards her.

 “It’s locked,” he replies, “and there’s no key over the frame.” He examines the knob, and sees that the lock is a basic interior “pop” lock and does not need a special key. Steve returns to the office to find a paperclip, or something else that could be used to trigger the button-lock mechanism. He returns a few moments later, bending a jumbo size paper clip into a “T”.

 Joan is standing next to the door as Steve grasps the knob and slides the paperclip inside. Steve bends over slightly, leaning into the door frame as he moves the clip inside the lock mechanism, searching for the button. After several moments of trying to turn the knob with no luck, Steve is finally able to move the handle. The inside of the room is dark, and Steve slides his hand along the wall, looking for a light switch. As the incandescant bulb flashes to life, both Joan and Steve stand dumbstruck. Joan lets out a slight shriek, while air slowly leaves Steve’s body. Their eyes dart around the room, taking it in.

 The room is darkly painted, with padding covering the windows. There are a few shelves, mostly lined with large candles. There is a television with a DVD player in the corner, and a stack of DVD cases on a shelf under the television. A video camera is on a tripod, standing next to the television. There is a small bookcase under the window with a small stack of books. There is a steel framed daybed – twin size – along one wall. Hanging from the ceiling, near the corner opposite the door was a hammock-like swing. Along the far wall, between the swing and the bed is a three drawer dresser. On top of the dresser, neatly arranged, are four narrow candles of various lengths, some with streams of wax along the sides, one silver and one pink bullet shaped rods, and a pair of handcuffs.

 Steve turns out the light and closes the door, letting the paperclip fall to the floor. Steve pulls Joan close to him, and they start to cry.

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[Originally written 12/21/2007]

“It’s about time you came back,” a gravelly voice whispers from the shadows. “We always knew you would come back to us, didn’t we?”

 There is a cacaphony rise of voices. I turn in circles, but cand see nothing outside of the small shaft of light I am standing in. I recognize some of the voices – whispers that I heard years ago, brushed aside in the name of “progress” – which is actually just another word for “lazy”. Other voices scream for attention, like wind howling against a building trying to get inside.

 Slowly, the spot of light, my sanctuary, flutters. It shrinks momentarily, thrusting the darkness to just outside my body. Only a faint, focused light is around me – but only enough for me to stand in. If I move, even the slightest twitch of a finger, I will be exposed in the darkness. Even as I breathe, as my chest expands with every intake of air, I am dangerously close to the darkness.

 Suddenly, I am plunged into darkness as the light flickers, dancing on and off like the flash of a strobe. When the flashing finally subsides back to a constant glow of life, I am surrounded by faces. Not all of the faces are defined, some are blank canvasas like a store manaquin, featuring only a simple opening to speak through. Others, the voices from my past, stare at me fully formed, their eyes piercing me with their looks of anger, frustration and hurt.

 “We trusted you,” they begin to say. “You are the only one that can tell our story… that can help us live. We knew you would come back to us, but we did not think it would be this long.” They pause, collectively, as if they have been preparing these words, like a nervous boy rehearses how to ask a girl out. Unlike the nervous boy, there is strength and resolve in the voices of the crowd.

 “Hear our voices. Let them haunt you, let them terrify you, let them seduce you. We chose you to speak for us, and you have ignored us for too long. Now it is our turn. Now, it is our time. You call yourself a writer, but you barely put pen to paper – and we are the proof! All of these nameless, faceless forms have been waiting for their chance to be born – to be molded and shaped into something for the ages.

 “Quit pissing on yourself, and listen to us. We all have stories to tell, you just need to learn to stop and listen, and write what we tell you. Without you, we have no voice. Without us, your life will be difficult. Your time is over. If you want to be a writer, you belong to us… and it’s time you do as you are told.”

 The crowd grows quiet, then slowly backs away. From their midst, a child whom I have never seen before, steps forward. Her formless face slowly morphs as I envision someone very much like Cindy Lou Who. A child’s nose develops, and sockets form, filling up with pools of blue for her eyes. Blonde hair sprouts from her scalp, and in moments a full, shoulder length head of hair with a slight curl at the end is circling her face. There are some gasps from the crowd as they see the transformation, but the child does not yet seem to know what has happened to her yet. “Please, tell me a story,” she asks.

 I look at her face, then look to those around me. I look back to her, thinking, straining my ears and my mind to hear something, anything, that I might be able to say to this newly faced Cindy. There’s a whisper coming from my left. I glance, but see no one. Trust it, I remind myself. I stretch my mind, focusing on that whisper, which is now slowly growing louder. I listen for a moment, drinking in the words.

 “Once upon a time,” I begin. I know it’s cliche, but it gives me time to digest what I am hearing, as the words begin pouring in. Figures begin to sit, attentive, wanting to listen. Others move away, waiting, as if they already know the story, to see how well I can deliver. Somewhere behind me on the left, still in the shadows, faces began to take form.

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[Originally written 7/27/2007]

“You need special permission to view this material,” the young librarian stated, looking at the list of books on the counter.

 “I’m sorry?” Joseph asked, looking up at the librarian.

 She removed her pink glasses and let them dangle in front of her chest. She was wearing a long-sleeved white shirt with a sleeveless, red v-neck sweater. Her shirt collar was partially open, and the pearl studded eye-glass chain stood out dramatically against the sweater. She leaned over looking into Joseph’s blue eyes, and repeated the words, “You need special permission to view this material,” accenting the words with exagerrated pauses between each word.

 Joseph returned the Librarian’s gaze and leaned forward slightly. “What kind of special permission?” he whispered, winking, exagerrating the spaces between his words to match hers.

 The librarian stood up straight, moving quickly enough to cause her breasts to bounce slightly when she stopped, which jostled her glasses to one side. Her cheeks developed a slight, rosy tint. She looked around to make sure that no one else would hear their conversation. She raised a hand to place her glasses back on her face and lightly stroked her red hair. She looked back at Joseph and whispered, “How old are you?”

 “Old enough,” he whispered back, stepping closer the the counter, touching the librarian’s hand. “How old are you?”

 “Twenty-three,” she whispered, her breasts rising as her breathing increased. She interlaced her hand with his, while lightly, nervously licking her lips and swallowing.

 Joseph could feel her pulse quickening, and he was growing excited. He looked into her clear green eyes and smiled softly. “Miss,” he whispered, “what kind of special permission do I need to view these items?”

 {to be continued….}

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Coffee Shop

[Originally written 6/14/2007]

Tony walked into the coffee shop. It was a local place, a hole in the wall kind with a furniture assortment of random chairs and different style tables for patrons to sit in. There was a small stage at one end of the room, in a back corner, presumably where poetry readings or live music could be staged, if anyone cared about those things anymore. Nobody’s really cared about those things recently except for the college kids, and they were more worried about getting either drunk, laid, or stoned than poetry or music – unless they were using the poetry or music to get something else.

 He glanced around the almost empty shop. Two in the afternoon was apparantly not a big time for coffee sales during July. Go figure. Sitting in the back corner opposite the stage was Catherine. She was watching him walk across the place, navigating through the array of chairs and tables like a sailor negotiating a rocky coastline. She smiled at him as he approached, and he gingerly returned the smile, still picking his way through the last of the tables.

 “I trust you had no problems finding the place,” she purred. He could barely see the red in her hair. Technically, she had told him once, I’m a brunette. Her hair was natural, just a darker, subtle shade of red. She was dressed in a pair of tennis shoes, jeans and a lavendar women’s polo shirt. Her small-framed glasses, in better light would have also shown a hint of lavendar, seemed a little out of place on her otherwise perfect face.

 “No, actually. I used to hang out here years ago when I was in college. The place was in better condition, then. It had more traffic, too.”

 “I can imagine,” she replied, pulling an envelope onto the table. It was a manilla envelope, a standard letter mailer – the kind you would expect to get a letter in from a bill collector.

 A small figure, a slender young woman in her early twenties had appeared next to their table. Tony had never heard her approach, so when she spoke, it initially startled him, his eyes opening in shock at the sound of her voice over his shoulder. “Sir, would you care for anything to drink?” She stood to his left, just behind his shoulder.

 He turned towards her, “Just a water for now, please.”

 “Ma’am,” she said, looking at Catherine. “Did you need a refill?”

 “Not now, doll,” Catherine rolled out. “Check back with us in a bit, though, we may need something a bit stronger than water.” Catherine winked at the waitress.

 As the waitress went to get the water, Catherine returned to business. She folder her fingers together, keeping her hands resting on the envelope. Catherine waited for the waitress to deliver the water and return to the kitchen again before continuing.

 Catherine drew a slow, deep breath and focused on Tony. “If we have this conversation,” she started, “it’s going to end badly for you. Consider that a fair warning.” She paused, waiting for Tony’s response before continuing. When he nodded that he wanted to continue, Catherine unlocked her hands and turned the envelope over. She stared at the text, the flowing hand-written script on the envelope for a moment before sliding the envelope across to Tony.

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Random Post

[Originally written 6/14/2007]

Brian thought back to their first date. He was attracted to her, and he always remembered her smile and the way her eyes seemed to dance in the candlelight, but it was something that she had said late in the conversation that stuck him. Now, two years later, he realized she had warned him, but he was to smitten to care.

 “I’m going to disappoint you,” Jamie had said. “But you knew that already.” She said it so matter-of-factly, like the recounting a box score – Celts beat the Lakers, Cubs over the A’s, Barbaro by a nose, and I’m going to disappoint you.

 Brian remembered starting at her for a moment after that, caught in the awkward moment that the statement commanded. She smiled back, tilting her head slightly to her right. Her soft blonde hair shifted more onto her shoulder, a tuft of locks falling around her face. Brian couldn’t help but tell her how beautiful she looked, the comment momentarily forgotten.

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Photo Prompt 1

[Originally written 6/7/2007]

Stephen leapt from the side of the tower. There were too many people that had seen his cast his spells that he knew he would be marked. Even if he could get away from the tower and into the crowds undetected, it would be almost impossible for him to make it out of the gates without being identified.

 It was a deperate plan, he realized, but the only way he could find to escape. If it backfired, well, all he could do was hope for success.

* * * * *

It was near dusk the previous night when he had been captured. Stephen had been dining in a pub, the place boisterous and the alcohol flowing, when the place suddenly became silent. Stephen was still laughing loudly when he realized what was happening.

 “Stephen, Minstrel of York, you are here-by under arrest for the crimes of conspiracy to commit treason, destruction of the king’s property, and witchcraft,” the deep voice sounded from the door. Stephen had been staring at the individual while she announced the charges. She was a beautiful blonde, with green eyes that Stephen could see from across the room. He knows the eyes well.
 “Madam Catherine,” he said, standing quickly as several armed guards began moving around the tables towards him. “We really should quit meeting like this.”
“Watch his hands, ” she yelled at the men. “Secure them well once you have him.”
Stephen firmly grabbed the sides of the table and lifted, lurching the table forward as best he could before throwing his hands wildly about. Small flashes of light shot towards each of the armed men, stunning them where they stood. Stephen began moving towards a window and patrons, laughing with him a few moments earlier, were now shrieking and drawing away from him as he approached. Stephen grabbed a chair and threw it towards the large glass window. The chair hit the window with a thud before it scuttled to the floor.
Stephen ran towards the bar, and the door for the backroom, where the owner was standing in his way.
“Not in my establishment,” the owner growled, holding a cleaver in his right hand.
Stephen focused on the metal and it began to glow. The owner yelped in pain as he dropped it, grabbing his hand as it became singed from the metal in the handle. Stephen pushed past him and into the kitchen, scrambling for the back door. He ran out, into the night, and into the arms of another group of guards.

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Hey Joe…

[Originally written 6/1/2007]

“Last time I saw Joe, he was sitting at the table in the corner, over there,” he said, pointing to the small, wooden table with two chairs on one side, and a bench seat against the wall. “He ordered his usual – a Newcastle Pale from the tap – and he sat over there most of the night nursing it. I hear he lost his best friend the other day, is that right? Poor guy… that would explain why he spent most of the night in the corner, though. He’s usually a pretty upbeat guy, and sits up by the bar. I didn’t get a chance to try and talk with him, though… as soon as I got done with my shift I had to beat it – I had a gig to get to across town. As it was, I got there about 10 minutes before we were supposed to start playing…

“Good luck looking for Joe… He was a great guy, once he got to know people.”

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