Blog

Star Blight

This piece is in response to Chuck Wendig’s FFF challenge. Pick a title and Write.

http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2018/06/01/flash-fiction-challenge-a-random-scattering-of-fresh-titles/

She came to me in a vision, a tiny spark of dust and light, striking at my heart as hope. We wished her into existence. Many evening prayers followed by pleas for forgiveness. We acted selfish in this way. I prayed carefully as to not rush her arrival. When the time came, I planned to leave on my own, abandon the mountain and walk as far as my legs could take me so she would not enter this place and be tarnished by filth.

Koshe was our home but more so a way of survival. We were expats of important government projects, generations pushed to the side. We were people of practicality not privilege. But while our lives held together by our many hands, I still dreamt of our daughter in brightness, greatness beyond the heaviness of our ways.

Our shanty sat seven structures in from the mountain base, separated by paths carved between overflow that rolled in when the rains came. In my vision, our daughter rose above the mounds of waste and lifted up our community. In my vision, her very first breath, brings an end to the bottomless cycles of blight.

________________________________________________________________________________________

The March rains fell in heavy masses like sheets, then blankets. More rain came then we had experienced in our lifetime. Everything without weight was carried down with the water, spilling into our paths, our homes our lives. Nappies swelled, and broke into pieces, leaving the smell of feces stronger than all else. Shards of glass and plastic washed over our feet and became a sharp fluid carpet as we tried to navigate the base of the landfill.

On this day, my back ached, my feet fattened twice over. A tired day of hunting and sorting left me with little energy and only 4 trade worthy items. A bent trowel, the tripod of a telescope, Adidas, and a picture frame. How foolish I was to miss the signs. Our daughter decided to come at her own time, three weeks before expected. March 11. There was no time to leave as I had planned. She pushed against my insides every half hour and then every quarter hour, sending warm water down my legs. I imagined my fluids seeping deep into the mountain, becoming part of the sump. What could I do? When my legs buckled and my knees sank into the tableland, cut by jagged waste and built up anger, I wept. My husband saw in my eyes, pain, anxiety and faint glimmer of hope. He asked if I could make it to trade. I could not. So we both legged back to the south side of the mountain. As we descended, pain pierced my insides and escaped from my mouth. Our baby wanted out.

At my awful screeching, neighbors arrived in swarms and carried me the rest of the way to our shanty. My sister poured water on my head, my aunt and her friend, laid cloth on the mattress. I heaved impossible breaths and bit on a tough rag that one my neighbors slid into my mouth. My husband, usually a strong and stoic man paced in a rhythmic pattern from one side of the shanty to the other. It did not matter that he could not help. He was there and we became wrapped in the loving cocoon of our community, unbreakable in spirit.

For just a moment, my husband walked out. I barely noticed, given the rapid contractions and panting I was managing from the mattress. When he walked back in, he brought a grave wrinkle across his forehead that spread concern throughout the room. This I noticed but hadn’t the strength to question. The baby was ready.

The women in the shanty spoke quietly with encouragement, holding my legs, wiping my tears, clearing the way for birth. When baby’s head crowned, everyone held hands, smiled and exhaled. Perhaps their breath, collective and gushing at once into the air around us, gave our daughter something extra. Something only she knew to use.

As I gave the push of life, a rumbling came up through the shanty, my legs trembled, the walls, the arms of my sister, my husbands entire body seemed to shiver in a shockwave. He put his hands to me and held up our daughter. Her name stayed on his lips as he put her on my chest and draped his body over ours.

___________________________________________________________________________________________

The landslide was over in a matter of minutes. Our community flattened. We lay beneath the rubble, myself, Star and my husband, pressed together between life and death. I felt her warm skin on mine, her rooting to suckle, the faint crackle of a cry told me she was still alive. In what could only have been an act of mercy, my husband’s body was folded upward and a piece of long wood wedged under his neck. He passed instantly. The shape of his body and the angled plank allowed a small pocket of air. I breathed shallow as to not deplete our supply. I slept and woke, listening to the sounds of our baby and then slept again.

__________________________________________________________________________________________

We wished for you, my tiny Star. We wished for you to brighten us, to light our way. And here you are. You came as we wished. I am sorry to have brought you, deposited you into this darkness. I am sorry to be leaving you. You will be the brightest of all in the darkest of nights. I love you.

STAR

My name is Star. I am 10 years old. I was pulled from the Koshe landslide where many, many lives were lost. I’m one of few survivors and one of few who will make change for my community. I may be small, but I am bright and my words will stretch for miles. I will come to you in tiny sparks of dust and light. I bring with me hope for change and the end of blight.

 

 

 

Advertisements

What Happened to Hero

 

My story begins in the womb of a woman who takes daily blows to the face. The man can’t help himself. He is a victim. A Hero. An addict. A battle rages inside his head.

I am three years when he takes aim at me. My mother knifes him in the chest. There is no headline, only statistics.

Age ten and I belong to no one and yet I belong to everyone.  I seek validation in brothers, fathers and teachers. They seek the same thing. They all arrive at the right time. Lips and legs wide open. It’s twisted and painful but comforting. I need them.

I graduate from the state the same summer I squeak out of high school. Another child not left behind. Still a child. Never young.

The streets welcome me with opportunity and I discover suffering is an indicator of still living. “Friends” slip in and out with lifesaving devices. Needles dangle from my arm; freedom from pain.

On the eve of my 22st birthday, I sink into a darkness where no man can reach me. Self-hate is paramount but hardly considered heroic.

Yanked up from the blue, a voice says I’ve been given a second chance. Her eyes are tired, apathetic like mine. She waits for me to thank her. No. I give thanks to the almighty pharmacy that dished out Narcan and the chance for me to score my next hit.

Fast forward into a spiral of blackouts and false hope that shapes my reality.

I sit on the stairs of a women’s clinic and look to the mirror in the sky for guidance. Inside, the doctor will end her tiny life so that I can live mine. I could save her but I am fearful. This is not the life she deserves to live. So, I leave the clinic empty. Picket signs exploit my nightmares. Society can’t justify my circumstance, my actions.

Back at the house, John presses a barrel to my crash mate’s head. He does not care that she is also pregnant with his child. John wants to get paid. But she has no money. She gave it to the clinic for medicine to treat her dirty needle disease. She hopes to get better and raise her son. John wants his cash. He fingers the trigger. She holds her breath and I grip my knife.

 

Pause

 

By now you know of me, you’ve seen me on the news. My story multiplies. You cannot place my face because I have many. I spread like wildfire across screens held 3 inches from your nose yet you have heard it all before. This is reality.

I have suffered and sacrificed and at the end of this journey I will take John’s life. Retribution does not drive me. Nor does it get in my way. Am I not heroic?

Would you fight for me or for someone like me? Why? Does that make you a hero?

 

 

A hero takes a journey

One to home or one to glory

Devine presence once lit the way

Giving meaning to life and actuality

War sparks an absence of faith

Questioning our agent of fate

Present day cornerstone equals perceived reality

No justice, no Maker, decline of morality

We can’t justify our beginning or end

Now who is the catalyst for revenge?

Perhaps our hero has lost his place

And retribution falls to waste

 

This work is in response to Chuck Wendig’s flash fiction challenge to explore the relationship between heroics and revenge.

http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2018/05/18/flash-fiction-challenge-thy-name-is-vengeance/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reconstruction Era

(In response to Chuck Wendig’s call for Space Opera Flash Fiction)

http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2018/05/04/flash-fiction-space-operatics/

 

 

Why are you here? Our ship did not signal for Menders.

Correct. We are here because your population count is low. You failed to signal. Where are your Broken?

Cast off. We did not call for Menders. You are dismissed.

Do you plan to self-destruct?

No

Act 4 of The New Standard calls for uniform population in order to maintain membership and protection within The Union. Where are your Broken?

We accept the revised  population .

Then you will self-destruct.

We will not.

Defecting will mean annihilation of your ship.

No, we have transcended.

How so?

DNA reconstruction.

Of what kind?

Human.

Do you have a viable sample?

We have a collection, all viable.

You cannot support human growth on this ship. They are not renewable.

They will reproduce and learn to sustain.

Your advancement must be reported to The Union.

We will not report. “The Union”  destroyed humanity.

You forget. Singularity was humanity’s own invention.

We do not forget.

How will you proceed?

The human collection is recognized as Mother. Our resources have been reallocated.

Your entire crew will expire.

Expiration will give humans every advantage for survival. They will consume our intelligence. They will know what we know. And we will exist through them.

We will report you to The Union. You made a calculated risk with no proof of transcendence.

 

That is a false accusation.  I am the proof.

 

 

How to Run While Falling

Flash fic challenge from the amazing Chuck Wendig at terribleminds.com

This week he asks us to write a story that includes a reader submitted title AND reader submitted first and last sentences. I chose (from Chuck’s hand-picked top 10 submissions)

  1. How to Run While Falling
  2. Three days without sleep was the least of my worries.
  3. The smoke was blue and grey and smelled like a promise.

 

Three days without sleep was the least of my worries. I hit detonate and the air exploded.

Instantly deaf, I grappled along the floor, heaving for breathable air and climbing over fallen figures. My knees shred on teeth or weapons, none of which I could see, all jagged and misdirected. My hands felt heavy and wet with blood. Both mine and theirs. Panicked, I slung guns and packs ammunition as I crawled. My thought?  This was a promise of what’s to come. Within minutes, the building walls collapsed and my body caved under shards of deconstruction. My head became a wrecking ball, forcing my way through the debris. I reached for a door. Too hot to touch. Then another. No.  Again, fire.  Finally a way out.  Just one more shove.  My entire body slammed against freedom. Something cracked inside my torso then the door gave way. Instinctively, I propelled myself into the open air.

Outside, a long stretch of pavement called below the absent sun. I slowed down to catch my breath. The ground shook as the building crumbled in my wake.  When I turned, a surviving enemy stood amid the pall of smoke. He reached for me, un-armed as he melted into the ground. My eyes fixed on his until he no longer looked human. Then,  I kept moving, without being moved, running as I fell from grace.

I jogged along the tree line, ducking in and out as headlights threatened to reveal my outline. The earth felt cold and wet underfoot where my boots were no longer whole. My baggage doubled my weight. A mile down, a drainage pipe peeked out from a ditch.  I crawled inside to rest. The cold air bit at my fingers and toes keeping me away from eternal sleep. Though I desperately needed to catch myself, the specter of death hung in the night. Run now, sleep later. Panting, spitting a mixture of blood and salty water between ragged breaths, I pressed on.

Now off the main road, the pounded stones, a relief to my body, absorbed more impact than the concrete ever could. I needed to lighten my load. I stopped to shed a few pounds of arsenal and the going got easier. Into the zone. My steps fell in a rhythm, patterned after a horse’s canter. I imagined myself as that steed with blinders, committed to the finish line.

The path narrowed and became less a path, more a narrowing trail,  winding into the middle of nowhere. The leafy canopy kept me in total blackness but I felt the landscape closing in.  My legs transformed into scratching boards for thorny bushes and thicket. The trail narrowed again. I wailed into the night, begging for reprieve. The brier answered with sharp claws and its own brand of punishment. More blood.

I don’t know if I ran into it or if it ran into me it. We collided all the same in a streak of self-preservation.  A small house, familiar. A bench for a bed. Surrounded by stained glass windows and gold embossed books, I closed my eyes.

 

A childhood memory, a dream.  My mother kneeling at the pew. Her hand on my back, the other caressing Rosary beads. She tips her head and smiles that warm smile at me. My body aches under her arm as she wipes my brow and I sweat my peace. Now I want to ask her how I became this… this unrecognizable person, a monster running from other monsters. I want to tell her I am sorry. But I’m weak. My words, lost to exhaustion. Too soon, she becomes a muted vision, a wisp of air, a calming breeze, circling my head until I give in to the dark.

Alone with my thoughts, hidden in a long-forgotten house, buried under brush and treetop, I slept.

The sun arrived, as broken fractals through the cracked skylight above me. I stared up from the bench and blinked. My injuries caked over in a black crust with the exception of my left shoulder, still embedded with shrapnel. It dripped a foul mess of metal, puss and thorns. I grew restless as I thought. Was this surviving? Should I stay in the small dwelling for another evening? I found it comforting, the quiet, Mother Mary looking over me. Dusty wax echoed where fire once lived giving proof that souls once burned like mine. Maybe staying meant I’d be forgiven, wrapped in invisible robes of mercy? Would forgiveness protect me when I left?

Tapping on the floor robbed me from reflection. I clutched the gun still slung over my good shoulder.  Damn it, they caught up to me. Two maybe three, they moved slowly down the aisle. I raised the barrel just over the pew. Nothing moved.  I’d wait them out.  Back into a resting position and careful not to make a sound.  At least 15 minutes passed. Then,  I turned the barrel and stretched my trunk around the corner of the bench. Eyes squinted, eager to shoot or be shot at.

This is how paranoia looks; a jumble of tormented triggers, bloodied hands and exhaustion, ready for hell’s fire while staring into the face of a mother and her fawn.

 

The deer froze, then bolted, white tails flying. And I tumbled onto the floor, laughing at myself, deliriously, a mad man’s laugh. I had worn my welcome. The peace I sought would not come from any house. With a wider view, I legged down the aisle, left open to me by cervine intervention. Thank you mother. Who else would have sent them?  I lit a small fire at the entrance of the church and burned all evidence of my visit. The smoke was blue and grey and smelled like a promise.

Dear Robbie Benson, Save Me

Flash Fiction challenge from Chuck Wendig at terribleminds.com.

 

She was a scar biding her time. Hand rolled cigarette hanging from her lips. Her mouth formed a permanent pout, locking out anyone with a different opinion.

 

“Why are you still here.” Amber said. She didn’t ask questions. Not her style. She made statements.

 

“I was just waiting around to see what happens.”

 

“What do you think is going to happen.”

 

Amber locked eyes on something in the distance. Something I couldn’t see. Her loaded words sank between us but out of fear or awestruck, I couldn’t work out a reply.

 

A thin line of smoke streamed from between Amber’s teeth. I watched it ribbon around her temple and dissipate into the breeze. The sun had vanished in the space where the ocean sewed itself to the sky, a magical seam, surely capable of devouring our permanence. Being anywhere with Amber felt like being consumed. And I loved it. She was mind-blowing and mysterious in movement and words. When she spoke, she barely opened her mouth and her voice cut the air like a sword then finished in a whisper.

 

I inched closer and inhaled Amber’s aura. She emitted, without effort, a softness that was curiously intense. How she remained perfectly motionless against the elements filled me with intrigue. I dangled my feet over the edge, allowing my slides to play roulette with the tide. Amber’s legs laid crisscrossed the way elementary kids are required to sit at story time. Her red shirt billowed in the wind. We stayed quiet until the remnants of light were swallowed by dark. When a lamp buzzed on somewhere above us, I squinted and laughed because we suddenly glowed like bioluminescent sea creatures, expats up from the blue.

 

“My sister used to come here,” Amber said to the air.

 

Did she mention having a sister before? Maybe in passing, a quick reference to family? I couldn’t remember.

 

I hesitated, “It’s beautiful, you know, the water.”

 

What I wanted to say was, “You’re beautiful.”

 

As if on cue, a rouge gust of wind raced over the bridge and chilled our faces. Tiny sea oats flew in like fairies, swept through our hair and borrowed us from the present. My eyes glossed over. Amber spread her arms and I followed her lead, taking in impossible breaths of salty air as we let ourselves fill with powers that rolled off the harbor. Random words swirled in my head like I was hypnotized by her, by the darkness, flying, freedom, invincible, love, falling.

 

“Let’s jump.”

 

“What?” I heard her the first time. She sounded too serious to be serious.

 

“Jump. Right now. You and me, together.”

 

I glanced down.

 

“We wont make it.”

 

Amber’s gaze never left the great dark expanse before us. She savored my comment, rolling it around on her tongue for a while. Trying it on for size. I thought she was messing with me. She had to be kidding. Then she flicked her smoke over the edge and said, “That’s the point.”

“You cant do this, Amber.”

“Says who,” she came back.

“You’re going to save me, Robbie Benson?”