Category Archives: Short Story

#FlashFiction @lauralibricz

 

Vertical Barbituate
     Libby opened the door and stood aside, allowing Lasse to peek into the same room he had slept in last night. Eerie energy in here, he thought. She left him in the doorway and walked to the front door, fluffed her short blonde bob in the mirror and sprayed a cheap, sweet perfume. Mini-Pink, she called it. She slid her shoes on, opened the front door and walked out. Lasse heard the door shut with a faint click. The stairs creaked with every step she took. She had said something about bartending tonight for her brother.
      Lasse sat down on the bed with his back to the front door, his steel-string guitar on his lap, and strummed random chords. It was great that Libby came and rescued him. He hardly knew her. She said she was a collector. She had an extra room he could use, if he didn’t mind all the stuff. What a bit of luck after this insane day.
     All he wanted to do was play the guitar. He wanted to play with a band and play his own music. He wanted to own the goddamn rights to his work! Was that too much to ask for?
     He pulled a cigarette out of his backpack and lit it. She had given him an ashtray and asked him politely to be careful with his ashes in this old wooden house. She was afraid of fire. She said she didn’t mind if the volunteer firemen came, she liked firemen the best, but they should come when the house wasn’t burning, even though they looked sexy in their suits.
     He’d call his band Vertical Barbituate. He drew twice on the cigarette and stomped it in the ashtray. He set the steel-string aside and slid his Strat out of its bag and played chords from his first new song. What was he going to call it? The Venom Club. No, he’d call the whole CD that. This song was The Initiation.
     He plugged into the tiny amp and played the second song. He could only play them in their proper order, like the chapters in a book. That was it! He was telling a story. And no one would force him tell the chapters out of turn, no producer or recording engineer.
     He played the two chords and the bridge of the second song he called You’re Alive. He ran through the third song, Step Up to the Challenge, a basic three-chord blues progression with smoky lyrics. Liquid Delirium was a spacey-psychedelic drama that needed tightening up, so he only played the chords once through and moved on.
     The fifth song would not let him alone. Wolf-Lover.  Slow, distorted, grinding guitar, with a deep, round bass, the lyrics winding in and out of consciousness. So cool. This song haunted him the whole night last night, in this room. With her. Psycho woman.
     He wanted to play this song over and over. Even coming out of his tiny amp, the chord changes dripped sex and satisfaction. He shivered as he played. Then he stopped. The hairs stood up on the back of his neck. Someone was watching him.
     “Keep playing,” Libby said. “You’re very good.”
     He set his Strat up against the dark, old-fashioned bedside table. He heard the door close. He felt her hands on his shoulders. Her fingers rubbed his neck.
     “You need to relax,” Libby said.
     What the hell was he doing? Every decision he made today dug his grave deeper and he would not be able to claw his way out. He had spent the night here last night and his girlfriend threw him out this morning. Then he walked out on his recording session. He pissed his agent off. She said those words, ‘breach of contract.’ He didn’t know what that meant! He should have read the damn contract.
     Libby’s lips kissed the back of his neck. He smelled her cheap perfume, felt the tips of her bobbed hair touch his shoulders. Her breath smelled sweet, cola mixed with whiskey. He put a hand on hers, wanted to pull it off of his shoulder, but he caught himself pulling her towards him. His mouth was on her mouth. Did she kiss good? Liquid Delerium, Wolf-Lover. Then a new song began in his head, high-pitched, low bass, pre-programmed insanity, abandoned reason.
What is it made you fall for love?
To free you from a lonely bind?
Abandon love for nothing else
If just a reprieve in the night
He kissed you, told you
It was all right
When would the suffering end?
The turn of a lock, the twist of a fate
A touch, a smile and pain all the while
Appetite, need
Searching, longing
Filling, fulfilling
Feasting, tasting
     He had to write it down. The melody droned in his ears and he was torn: kiss her or set her aside and write this down? He pulled his lips away from hers. Her pupils were wide, a cat hunting in the dark. She stood. He rummaged in his backpack, found crumpled sales slip and scribbled the words out before they eluded him. The turn of a lock.
     Libby mumbled something and he agreed. He grabbed his guitar and played the chords. The melody pulsed through his fingers and out of the amp as if machine-generated. Libby stood still in the doorway and mumbled on. He agreed again. She should leave him alone! He stopped playing and noted the words. A touch, a smile, pain…while…
     “Lasse, are you sure?”
     “Yes!” he said.
     She pulled the door shut with a faint click. In silence, Lasse underlined the last word of his perfect song. He heard another click of the door. His pulse raced. His face flushed. The turn of a lock.

Friday #FlashFiction @lauralibricz

The Venom Club

“Try this,” I said. “Drink some.”

He shook his head no and kissed the blonde girl as she sat back down on his lap. I lit a cigarette and passed it to the girl, burning her hair as she flicked her ponytail over her shoulder to conceal her left breast.

“Stupid woman,” she spat at me as she stood up and marched away, stiletto heels uncertain in the thick-piled carpet.

I held the glass out to him again. “Drink. You promised. Otherwise I would have left you two outside.”

His green eyes were clear and alert, so he’d had nothing to drink and was not under the influence of any other substance. His skin was healthy. What a suitable subject. He leaned forward, defiant, distrustful, but rising to the challenge.

Good boy, I thought.

He took the glass from me. “Why do you want me to drink it? You drink it.”

“I’ve been drinking just this all evening.”

He sniffed at the simple glass tumbler, recoiled, coughed. He leaned forward, coughed again and I almost hit him in the head with the pitcher of water as I tried to top up his glass. The contents of the glass went cloudy as the water mixed with the amber-brown liquid of my own design. I approved with a proud smile and a nod of the head. Years of work perfecting my concoction. He saw my reaction. He narrowed his eyes like a trapped dog.

I set the water pitcher down, picked up my own glass and filled it once more with the same amber-brown liquid from the crystal decanter I kept by my foot. I sipped at the brew like it was the finest cognac.

“Why would I want to harm you?” I said.

By the door, I heard his girlfriend arguing with my brother. I needed her out of here. She could ruin everything. My brother seemed to have heard my thoughts. The door opened, the girl protested, the door slammed, all was quiet.

He watched me closely and showed no reaction to the girl’s exit. As he raised the glass to his lips, I did the same. He allowed the liquid, the whole glassful–watered-down, yes–to flow into his mouth and swallowed without flinching. I did the same.

Warm tingling spread a numbness from my feet up my legs. I knew I could not stand if I tried. My fingers gripped the plush arms of my chair and I willed my eyes to stay open. I looked at the clock. I knew I must allow for this initial dread in order for it to clear again. My tolerance was great but I had drunk more this evening than ever before.

He closed his eyes and leaned his head back into the brown-leather chair. His head nodded to one side. I needed to monitor his every move, check his vital signs, to record his reaction. If only I could get up out of this chair!

Feeling returned to my feet and I slowly wiggled my toes. Ten minutes had passed. Elation replaced the initial dread and I knew I’d raised myself up to the next level. I leaned forward and touched his knee. He stirred. I took his hand and asked his name.

“Lasse,” he said and closed his eyes again.

“Lasse,” I said. “You have passed your first test.”

“What test?”

“You’re still alive.”

He opened his eyes and stretched his legs. Fifteen minutes it took him to regain his composure. My brother could not even recover that quickly.

I filled his glass and held it out for him. “Drink.”

“No.”

“Drink it, I said!”

“No.”

“You have a choice, Lasse. You drink it now, you drink it every day, you stay here with me and work by my side. I know you have no job, you have no perspectives. I’ve been watching you. Your girlfriend will never speak to you again after this evening. She didn’t want to come in here in the first place.”

Lasse took one of my cigarettes and lit it.

“And,” I said, holding up his glass. “And, you build up a tolerance to this stuff like I have been doing over the past year. It’s biological and organic, untraceable. I’ve distilled hundreds of gallons of this stuff. Enough to poison the whole city.

“Or, you become trapped in my web, doomed like the others. I plan to tap into the water supplied to the Manufacturer’s Building on First Street next Monday morning. Fifteen-hundred people working in there on any given day! And that’s just the beginning.”

He drew on his cigarette and flipped the hair from his face with the practiced head toss of a real guitar player.

“Then, no one can stand in my way! I’ve already sent anonymous threats to the city and still I get no press. They won’t even investigate. They don’t take me seriously.”

He stomped out his cigarette and stared at me.

“I will not die in obscurity! I am the real Black Widow!”

#FlashFiction #MondayBlogs 2 minute read


The Newby

     “I don’t have to love them, but I do,” Libby said and sipped at her chai latte.
     A bus accelerated away from the bus stop next to her table, leaving a cloud of diesel. Mario turned suddenly in his chair next to hers and thanked the waitress as she set his espresso down. He had a fine aquiline profile, hair and eyes black like coffee.
     Libby took another sip. “That’s why I want to put them out of their misery,” she said and looked past him to the clack-clack-clacking source of approaching stiletto heels. Four pairs.
     Mario raised his eyebrows, confirming the suspicion that he heard them coming, too. He pulled a cigarette out of a pack, balanced it between his lips and lit it. Libby watched smoke curl away from his chocolate-brown two-day-old mustache.
     Four blonde women, one blonder than the next, each exactly the same height, the same weight, the same measurements, wearing the same regulation-blue skirt and white blouse, ID tags wagging merrily over their left breasts, clacked in unison through the tables of the sidewalk café. Another bus pulled away from the bus stop and honked its horn at a courier on a mountain bike. The four women lined up at the counter.
     “Probably to order the exact same soy milk latte, no sugar, and an extra shot of clone espresso.” Libby said.
     “You know, we’re so close to the city. All the women look like that.” Mario stubbed his cigarette out in the ashtray. “I think you’re overreacting.”
     “They can’t be real. I’ve been watching them multiply. First there were a few working for The Group. Then ‘we’ all started losing our jobs.”
     “’We’?” Mario waved the waitress over, put his empty espresso cup on her tray and nodded, ordering another one.
     “Us humans,” Libby said.
     “Oh, and it had nothing to do with your all-nighters and your bartending job? I remember how you used to come to work in the morning. Your brother was just as bad, Libby.”
     Libby turned her head as the four pairs of stiletto heels ticked in time out of the café, down the sidewalk, towards the center of town. To the heart of the city. The Group.
     The waitress set Mario’s espresso on the table and looked towards the clicking of four more pairs of oncoming stilettos.
     “They only travel in fours. No matter where they are,” Libby said. “Shopping, in restaurants, even at the bar in the evening. That’s not normal.”
     The four women, one blonder that the next, lined up at the counter. They received their drinks from the waitress behind the counter and filed past Libby’s table, down the sidewalk, towards the center of town.
     “It’s like a parade. Every morning. In the evening they all go back to their apartments in those new blocks. I heard they’re all furnished the same.”
     “I’ve been out with a few of those women. I’ve had them alone.” Mario laughed and shot his espresso back in one gulp. He lit another cigarette. “They aren’t clones. You’re just jealous.”
     “You would never notice if they were, Mr. Thirty Seconds.”
     Mario shot her that predictable angry glare. A bus slowed at the empty bus stop and then sped up again. Clack, clack, clack came the cadence of three pairs of stilettos along the sidewalk.
     Mario turned in his seat. Libby stood. Teetering behind the three women, an offset honey-blonde struggled to keep up with the other three. Her hair was unkempt and her clothes were too small. Or her breasts were too big, Libby wasn’t sure which.
     “The novice revenges the rhythm,” Libby said.
     “Never saw her around before,” Mario said.
     “Should I get her?” Libby said. “I have some of my antidote in my purse. We can try it out and see if it works.”
     “What? That stuff you made yourself? It’s poison, you said.”
     “Yeah, well, if it doesn’t cure her, it will kill her. I love them too much to see them suffer this horrible existence.”
     “Don’t you dare. Look, Libby, as much as I love you, there is no such thing as clones and especially not in Mitteltown. I got to get to work.”
     He stood, threw a few dollars on the table, kissed Libby on the cheek and took off towards the center of town. Libby turned and admired the sight of him walking away. She forgot all about him as the beat of stiletto shoes pulsed into motion. Three pairs. Towards the center of town.
     The honey-blonde stood alone by the counter. She handed the waitress a bank note and the contents of her wallet emptied all down the counter, coins chinking on the sidewalk. Libby sprang to her side and knelt down next to the newby.
     “Let me help you,” Libby said.
     The flustered honey-blonde said nothing. Sweat beaded on her forehead. She smelled like a mix of that same perfume all these women wore and some sort of chemical, like bleach.
     “Are you new here?” Libby touched her clammy arm and tried to get a reaction out of her.
     The honey-blonde dropped one coin after another into her wallet and would not meet Libby’s gaze. Libby sighed, was about to stand up and get a move on. Maybe Mario was right. The honey-blonde touched her hand. Libby looked up, instantly mesmerized by the clarity in the blonde’s steel-grey eyes.
     The steel-grey eyes did not blink. “Help me,” she said. 

Alien Virus #scifi #flashfiction

Alien Virus by Golubaja

     Leche stretched his legs and climbed out of the reclining wagon. He adjusted his black kerchief and pulled a lump of white fur from under his black leather collar. Damn shedding fur. He scratched the lump from his paw, stomped it into the sandy ground and tethered his horse Cocoa to the wooden post. Cocoa stomped her black hoof in the sand and tossed her black mane. Leche nodded to the young, grey greeter-bitch wearing a blue smock by the entrance way. He stood upright on his hind legs and entangled a caged cart from the unkempt pile. The rusted wheels stuttered and squealed as he pulled it behind him.

     “Why do I always get the bum carts?” he growled.

     He pushed the wooden doors open. Sunlight streamed through the store from the open-roof construction. Row after row of shelves filled with squawking birds, grunting piglets and sacks of dried meats teeming with chirping insects almost drowned the din of the other wolves out shopping on a Saturday morning. He walked towards the pen dragging the protesting cart. 

     He dropped back onto all-fours and motioned to the golden-brown blue-smocked attendant to get him a puller out of the pen. “I need some hands today, darling,” he said.

     The golden-brown attendant bitch barked two gruff orders at a young male huddled with two females at the side of the pen. She swiped at him with one strong paw and the young male stood, cowered out of the pen, pulled the harness from Leche’s cart and strapped it onto his bare, brown-smeared back. 

     “He’s not very strong, Mr. Leche,” she barked. “He’s even stupider than the others. You should see the scars on his backside. After all these generations, the virus still comes through. In my opinion, we should get rid of these inferior ones.”

     “If any of the files we read today are correct, then what these creatures were capable of was nothing short of barbarian. Better that they stay this way.”

     “You want a whip, Mr. Leche?” She smiled at him the way most bitches did. Until he lost his winter fur. Then he had to go into hiding for a few weeks until it grew back out.

     “No need, Amber,” he growled. “I only need a few things for the weekend. I’m having company tonight and I’ll need some hands to make a feast. Why don’t you come by later and bring these pullers?”

     She winked in affirmation.

     Leche smoothed his kerchief and snapped the harness. The puller yanked the cart forward. 

     “I need a few piglets, man,” he thought, barking twice aloud. 

     The puller hung his head and directed the caged cart towards the livestock. His toenails dragged along the sawdust-strewn floor. They were so long he almost tripped over them. His hair was thin, grey, and the virus had scarred his bald scalp with stripes like a shiny layer of melted wax. 

     In pack-school, the young wolf pups learned about the last Great War and what those humans had done. Having no cares or needs unmet, they turned to carelessly exterminating each other over doctrines, beliefs and mystical bla-blas. For thousands of years, they had played out this behavior. But it got out of control. That last blast brought a wind from the heavens. Even the men-in-charge got a surprise at that. They unleashed something they couldn’t understand. 

     The rains had come and saturated the earth, bringing a visible, electrically-charged molecule. Some called it the virus. The humans had tried to isolate it, but any exposure to the molecule softened their human minds, dissolved their intelligence, hardened their hearts. They suffered and became vulnerable. Many died. 

     Wolves, then, could feast. Undisturbed. The virus had no effect on their organism. On the contrary, it opened their minds. They multiplied. The eco-system slowly pulled itself together in just one generation. And those human minds that had survived were reduced to pitiful puddles of plasma.

     Leche pointed to the shelf of dried meat. The puller maneuvered the cart underneath the shelf, pulled a sack down and dumped it with a thud down into the caged cart. Leche barked and the puller moved towards the piglets. Leche barked three times and the puller retrieved three piglets, dropped them into the cart and closed the top of the cage. Leche snapped the harness and the puller slumped forward, jerking the overloaded cart forward to the check-out.

     A silky-black, blue-smocked beauty tallied up his goods and a caged human chalked up his purchase on a grey slate board hanging by the exit stall.

     “When should I come by, Mr. Leche?” she purred.

     “As soon as you’ve finished for the day,” he barked back.

     The puller maneuvered Leche’s cart back towards a very impatient Cocoa, who pawed the sand with one very bored hoof. Another set of hands came and helped the puller load Leche’s reclining cart.

     “You’d really let those hands prepare your meat?” the grey greeter-bitch said.

     “They don’t eat meat. Look at how their eyes have wandered to the sides of their faces. They have no teeth to rip flesh. I’d read that it started generations ago. Humans felt they didn’t need to eat meat anymore. They degenerated.”

     The grey greeter-bitch adjusted her blue smock and panted a broad smile.

     The puller stroked Cocoa’s nostrils and smoothed his hand over her mane. The horse nudged him quietly and they seemed to exchange a few niceties. Leche watched them and shook his head in disapproval. 

     “The horse has more brains than you do, man,” he thought and barked an insulting laugh. He stuck a carrot in the horse’s mouth. The puller sat back on his behind and whimpered.

     “One for you, too, man,” Leche thought, stuffed a carrot in his mouth and climbed back into the reclining wagon.

     Cocoa looked back to the man as Leche leaned back and snapped her reigns. She needed no meat. The man either. She needed no wolves. The man either. Together they shared a brief moment of understanding.  

 

April Gray-A Short Story #mondayblogs

 

April Gray
     “Please take your children and go to that room over there,” the passport controller said. “Officer!” he shouted to a uniformed guard standing by a sign reading “Immigrations Detention Office.” The guard waved me towards the door as he opened it.
     “This must be some mistake; I’m an American!” I said. “My father’s waiting out there for me.” I tried to swing the overstuffed diaper bag over my shoulder. It slid down my arm, almost hitting my boy. I grabbed both children by the hand and dragged them and the diaper bag behind me.
     The guard stood aside and allowed us to enter. Low slung fluorescent lights and stifling warmth made me grit my teeth and exhale. Not a single window, no means of escape, not a chair or a table; only a judge’s bench atop a platform rose to an authoritative height at the front of the hall. Four judges hovered on the domineering panel. Hundreds of foreign-speaking families stood in four lines in front of the bench and awaited their verdicts. Mounds more huddled about the outer walls on blue airport carpet embedded with dirt from all over the world. 
     The droning ventilation made it hard to hear. My ears were still plugged from the descent.  In spite of the fans, the air stood still. The flight had been eight hours long, and now the six hour time difference. My legs were wobbly. I knew I had to act now, lest I be kept here indefinitely. 
     “Please, Officer, can’t you help me? This is a mistake,” I said to the guard, trying to gain an ally. 
I had a passport. What annoyed the passport controller was the children’s ID. Not only did the children have a different last name, they also had foreign passports and weren’t registered as aliens travelling to America. They would not be allowed to enter the country with me. I could not prove that I was the legal guardian. The children were to be detained and I was told I could choose to stay with them, or leave, however I wished.   
     Such formalities had never crossed my mind when I impulsively booked the flight last week to visit my father. I had been so homesick and desperate to hear my own language.
     “Just get in line and wait your turn, Ma’am,” the guard said. He turned and left the detention office.
I needed to get to the front of the line, needed to talk to one of the judges. The glaring lights made me giddy and I saw stars. My mouth was dry. I was extremely thirsty. I sank involuntarily onto the carpet like a sack of flour and the moldy smell made me nauseous. My boy started to cry and I saw his pants were wet.
     “Oh no, why didn’t you tell me you had to go?” I said.
     He cried louder.
     “Baby, I’m sorry. Look, I have dry pants in my bag for you,” I said and tried to smile. I rummaged through the diaper bag for a clean pair of pants. I found my boy’s teddy and he grabbed it out of my hand. I untangled the pants from a sweater and then stood abruptly, looking around the hall for a bathroom.
     I rubbed my eyes, trying to focus. I was going to be sick. I knelt back down and pulled diapers and kids’ clothes out of the bag, throwing them on the floor, looking for my medicine. Oh, please don’t let it happen here, I thought. There’s our favorite book, “There’s a Cow in the Road.” I threw that on the floor, too. Where were those damn pills? My boy held tightly to my arm, whining through the pacifier in his sucking lips and I reprimanded him, immediately regretting my impatience. In the bag, I found two new pacifiers, in case one gets lost, but no sign of my pills. I sat back, put my head in my hands and willed myself to stay calm. Breathe. My girl sat down next to me, twisted her blonde braid, hummed to herself and rocked her doll.
     The need to vomit heaved me forward onto all fours. I spewed and it hurt. Then the frame froze. It was like someone had pushed the pause button on a video. The world had stopped. I heard shouts around me, but saw no motion. Then time sped up and the last five years of my life passed at a dizzying speed; yes, before my eyes. I thought this time I really was going to die. Then darkness.  
     I opened my eyes and winced at the brutal lights. Were these the lights at the end of the tunnel? The faces of the paramedics came into view. They were bringing me away on a stretcher. An official-looking woman held my two screaming children back. I tried to get off the stretcher, but was tightly belted in.
     “You’re no good to them like this,” the paramedic said. “You had a seizure.”
     “I know,” I said and all went dark.
***
     It was nighttime when I opened my eyes again. I had a view of the parking lot and the cars coming and going under the cold, orange glow of the street lamps. My face was swollen, my mouth parched and I tasted blood. I must have bitten my lip. A woman snored in the bed next to me and a machine peeped to the beat of my heart.
     The door opened and I wanted to scream to the nurse but I couldn’t raise my head. I tried to whisper to her. The door closed but I could still make out her face, lit by the street lights, as she bent over me.
     “Oh, you’re awake. I need to ask you a few questions,” the nurse said.
      “Where are my children?” I managed to say.
     “Children? I don’t know anything about any children. Maybe you could tell me your name. We need to find out who you are.”
     I tried to sit up. The machine peeped in protest.
     “Or you could get some rest, Jane. You had a rough day. I’ll be right back. I’ll get you something to help you sleep.” the nurse said.
     Sleep? I had to get out of here. I pulled the patches off my chest and the machine gave off one continuous drone that reminded me of the dreaded flat line. I looked up at the IV dripping from the bottle to my arm. I remembered doing this as a kid when I was in the hospital: I undid the tape and pulled the needle out of my arm, balled a tissue and secured it in the crook of my arm. I stood up, got dizzy and forced myself forward to the two locker-like closets to look for my clothes. Both were unlocked. I opened the first, but inside hung what must be my roommate’s clothes. In the other closet, my tee-shirt and sweater were crumpled in a ball and my pants were wet and soiled from being sick. I tore off the hospital gown and dressed in my roommate’s clothes. These clothes would have to do.
     The nurse opened the door. Light from the hall streamed into the room and I stood and stared like a deer caught in headlights.
     “What are you doing? You need to get back in bed. You’re not going anywhere,” she said. She walked towards me and the door slowly swung shut.
     “I’m not sick. Where are my children? Where am I?”
     “This is the University Hospital. The EMTs didn’t say anything about children. They couldn’t even find your ID. What’s your name?”
     “My name is April Gray and I have to find my kids, damn it!”
     “You have to calm down. Your EEG is a mess and we need to get you under control.”
     A man in the hallway called to the nurse, she turned and reached the door in two steps. She stuck her head out of the door and I could hear them talking. “The female epileptic. The EMTs brought her from the airport. She’s hysterical. Something about kids. They said she was alone when they brought her.”
     I had no purse, no money, no ID. I didn’t even know where the hospital was situated. I moved towards the nurse and seemed to have startled her. I pulled open the door and saw the two doctors she was talking to.
     “Call the Immigrations Center at the airport.” I said. “They have my kids. They have my things, my passport.” 
     “Please get back in bed and I’ll make some calls,” the one doctor said. “Please take your medication and stay calm. This isn’t your fault. We’ll straighten this out.”
     The nurse brought me a clean gown, gathered up my soiled clothes and took my shoes out of the closet. She watched me undress and took my roommate’s clothes as well. I felt I was making a tremendous mistake, surrendering my only disguise. I got back in bed, took the pills she handed me and swallowed, relieved to be off my feet. My head pounded. How could I just sit here? I had to act. Guilt kept me awake. How could I have left them there at the airport?  
     I’d thrown our favorite book on the floor. What if nobody thought to pick it up? What if his pacifier got lost? My girl couldn’t brush her hair by herself. At night I always made one braid down her back and in the morning I braided two. Would anyone make them their tea tonight? They loved fennel tea with honey. Where were they sleeping?
     I so wanted to give into sleep’s seduction. I wanted to believe the doctors. I wanted to trust the authorities. I wanted to lay my head on the pillow and that was the last thing I remembered.
***
     I woke and the sun shined in my room bright and crisp. In the night, they must have hung an IV on me again and I was wired to the heart monitor through those damned patches. My heart peeped. Doors slammed in the hallway. Nurses paraded in and out of my room. Another of the staff brought in two breakfast trays, clanked dishes and exchanged niceties with someone cleaning the bathroom. The decorating disguised the fact that this was a hospital at all. No white, sterile furniture. Oak imitation, I guessed. Only that biting smell gave it away. The walls were painted in a pale apricot and the floor-length window was trimmed in a darker, antique orange. Even the cleaning woman, now emerging from the bathroom, was dressed in a peachy uniform. I asked her for the nurse from last night, whose name I, of course, didn’t know.
     “Shift changed at six a.m.”
     “Did she say anything about me?”
     “Only that nobody knows who you are.”
     “My name is April Gray. She wanted to call the airport about my kids. They’re missing.”
     “Your chart says ‘Jane Doe.’ Sorry, I don’t know nothing ‘bout no kids,” she said. She turned and steered her wheeled bucket with the mop out the door.
     I hated hospitals. I spent enough time in them as a kid. Time ticked an artificial tempo, an unreal slow-motion. I had to fight the helplessness that swallowed me into this disinfected cage. Was anyone looking for me? Would someone get me out of here? Another nurse came back in the room with some more pills. She watched me put them in my mouth and when she turned to leave, I spat them back out. I was good at pulling the drip’s needle out of my arm. I tore the patches off my chest, too, and looked at the sleeping woman in bed next to me. I had an idea.
     Her closet was unlocked and I looked inside and, yes, there her clothes hung, light blue polyester pants, a floral polyester blouse and a light blue sweater. She was a good 20 years older than me, but we were, stretching the imagination, somewhat the same size. I was not going to be choosy. This was my only way out. Her shoes would have to do, too.
     I could hear so much bustling in the hallway; I could duck out if I didn’t run. They weren’t interested in me. I dressed and opened the door, looking for the universal sign for the stairway. What day was it? The time? I was completely disoriented.
     My head was still pounding as I ran down the steps. I felt the few dollar bills in my pocket and guilt burned through me. Yes, her purse was in the closet and I nicked some money. I wanted to get back to the airport. Maybe get a bus or a cab. I desperately needed some bread or something dry to eat. I should have taken some from my breakfast tray.
     Out on the street, I felt like an escaped convict, like everyone was looking at me. I should have brushed my teeth, I thought, making for the bus stop on Orange Street, right outside the hospital’s main entrance. I would get on the first bus I saw.
     “Are you going to the airport?” I said.
     The driver nodded and I paid, took a seat and pressed my forehead on the cool glass. The slant of the sun showed it was still early in the morning but the day seemed to be warming. I was grateful for the woman’s sweater. Another twinge of guilt made me consider mailing the clothes back to the hospital when this was all over.
     Then I sat bolt upright as a nagging thought burst into realization. My father! I would jump off the bus and look for a pay phone. Was there still such a thing as a pay phone? Why didn’t I think of calling him from the hospital? Would he be at home? I had his cell number in my purse, not in my head. I looked more distinctly out the window of the bus and thought better of getting off. The neighborhood was neither residential nor inviting, rather industrial and cold.
     As we approached Terminal A, I rehearsed umpteen conversations, arguments and scenarios. My face was burning, a manic out-of-control signal that I should slow down. I had spat those pills out this morning; I didn’t have my medicine. I needed a drink. First thing in the morning?  With the time difference, I figured it was really like three in the afternoon for me, wasn’t it?
     I got off the bus and ran into the terminal. Tears formed in my eyes, but I couldn’t cry. I tried to compose myself, think logically and find the best solution. Who could help me here? I wouldn’t get far in the airport without ID.
     I saw a lounge on the other side of the terminal, looked closer at the bills in my pocket and found a twenty. I meandered through the early-morning travelers, around a group of students staring at the departures board, into the lounge and sat at the bar. The bartender, a dark man about my age, smelling of Egyptian Musk, asked me what I’d like and I dissolved into tears and gave him the run-down of the last twenty-four hours.
     “I think I heard about this. What’s your name?”
     “April Gray.”
     “Here, drink this. Let me call someone, OK?” he said.
     I sipped whatever it was–I think cherry brandy. Sweet and thick. He reappeared behind the bar.
“Someone’s coming for you. Look, there she is. Seems they’ve been looking for you all morning.” he said.
     “So here you are, Ms. Gray,” the security woman said. “Sitting in the bar. We’ve been looking for you.”
     I put my glass down and stood to leave. I reached in my pocket for some money but the bartender held his hand up and smiled–the universal sign for “on the house.”
     My thoughts lightened and I smiled. Thank you so much, I continued saying to the woman. I wanted to shake her hand, hug her. Her expression gave me the impression that she didn’t want to be touched or otherwise sentimentally molested.
     She drove the airport buggy to “Immigrations,” as she referred to it. I could finally relax, I thought. I’d call my dad. Maybe he was already here. Maybe he straightened out this whole mess. I couldn’t wait to get to our house, have a nice meal with Mom, a bath and then a nap with the kids in our room that Mom had definitely made all warm and cozy for us. Maybe she’d baked.
     The security woman led me through a side entrance to the arrivals hall, slowly filling with the colorful contents of the last flight. Weary-looking tourists, a few hectic business-types, and families with kids lined up at the passport control booths. This is where this whole predicament started. We entered a small office next to the Immigrations Detention Office, a miniature room with an overhead fluorescent light, no windows, a large mirror on the left wall, a table and three chairs. A man stood tapping a pencil on the tabletop. The security woman took her leave and a policewoman closed the door, sealing us off from the sounds of the arrivals hall.
     “Ms. Gray, is this your passport and your bag?” The man said and pointed to my things on the table. He wore jeans and a light-blue button-down shirt. A badge hung from his belt. Maybe he was some sort of detective.
     “Where are my children?” I looked around the room–a rather silly move. The room was so small there was nowhere they could hide. The policewoman stood at ease by the door.
      “Would you like to tell us what is going on?” he said.
      “I’m visiting my family,” I said.
     “Are you being honest with us?”
     “Where’s my father? Isn’t he here? He’ll tell you.”
     “Ms. Gray, they’re not your children, are they?” he said.
     “Where are my children?” I could feel a cold sweat building on my forehead.
      “Ma’am, we received a complaint from the German authorities,” the policewoman said.
     “No, stop, this is a mistake! Call my father, please.”
     “Don’t worry, ma’am, we checked all our sources and your father told us you worked as an au pair in Germany,” the detective said. His voice was gentle, almost pitying. “These children belong to a family called Ritscher from Munich. What can you tell us about them?”  
     “No! These are my children! Call my husband and ask him!” I was going to be sick.
     The detective moved closer to me and said, “That isn’t your husband. He was your employer. Both he and his wife are very worried.”
      “But he loves me, not her!” I said.
      “Ma’am, you are under arrest for the kidnapping of the two Ritscher children, reported missing on the fifteenth of March,” the policewoman said and began to read me my rights.
     “I wanted to bring my kids for a visit. They wanted to come to America,” I said.
     “The Ritscher’s lawyers contacted US Immigrations to see if you were trying to enter the country with their children.” he said.
     “No! They’re mine! I’m the only one who cares for them.”
     “…can and will be used against you…” the policewoman continued.
     “How did you manage to get them out of Europe?” he said.
     “You don’t understand! I’m the only one who loves those kids! She’s not their mother. That so-called mother is never home, and when she is…” I said.
     “…If you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be appointed to you…”
     “The kids have to stay in their rooms. Can’t make a sound when Frau Ritscher’s there. She keeps them like caged animals! I had to get them out of there.”
     “Do you understand these rights as they have been read to you?” the policewoman said.
     I dove on top of the diaper bag and tore it open. I pulled out my girl’s doll. “Where are they? She would never go anywhere without this doll.”
     “The children will board the next plane for Munich, leaving this afternoon. You will stay here in our custody,” the policewoman said.
     The detective opened the door and left the room, spitting into his radio.
     I pulled out a pacifier and my boy’s teddy. “He can’t sleep without this. I knew I couldn’t leave them for a night! He must have screamed all night long.”
     “Ma’am, you need to calm down.”
     “Calm down? I want to see them. Are they here? They must be if they’re flying out today. Ask them yourself. Ask them who their mother is!”
      The detective cracked the door open and through the narrow slit I could see my two kids sitting on the buggy driven by another guard. I wanted to yell out, but the detective came in and quickly closed the door.
     “Please remove any of your belongings from the bag, Ms. Gray. We’ll see to it that the children get their things.”
     “They’re out there. Ask them! Ask them who their mother is!”
      The policewoman silently consulted the detective.
     “At least let me give them each a hug,” I said.
     The policewoman nodded and the door seemed to burst open and both children came running in to the little office and hugged me around my legs. I squatted down and got both kids’ attention.
     “Listen you two. Tell the nice woman I’m your mother. She doesn’t believe me,” I said.
     My boy grabbed the teddy from the table and held my arm tight.
     My girl spoke: “April, I miss you.” Her English was spiked with a thick German accent. It sounded so cute. I taught her to speak English.
     “Go on. Tell her who your mother is,” I said.
     “April…” she said and started to laugh. She hugged me around my neck. “April, you’re not my mother. My mother is horrible old witch, you say. You’re not horrible old witch!”
     The door flew open and another detective rushed in. A very-official-looking woman click-clicking in high heels squeezed into the tiny room right behind him. I had watched enough TV in my life to realize they observed the whole scene from behind the mirror.
     “Ms. Gray, I think we’ve heard enough. Take her away.”

Human #FlashFiction -2 minute read

“We’re all human, even when we’re not.”
Humans are the second most dangerous beings on the planet surpassed only by mosquitos, which now spurs me on to renounce my life as it is amongst the fiends and settle in a world inhabited only by less-menacing denizens.
     Professor Ott paid the cab driver, turned towards the red-brick entrance to the train station and snorted at the mongrels filing in and out like the brainless livestock they claimed to be superior to. He had lived in the city all his life but would never synchronize with the existence of these people. Their petty lives and mundane concerns left him empty and unfulfilled.
     “Excuse me,” a young woman said and smiled as she disengaged the hem of her jacket caught on his rucksack.
     He snorted and looked at the woman through his rimless bifocals like she was an insect under a microscope. “Satisfied with the dullest of nonimaginitive spittle, these creatures will never truly understand.”
     He found his platform and a seat on the express train to the airport. The train pulled away and the dingy brick houses sped past; housing resembling rat cages that held anonymous, unsuspecting, dull-witted troops of overpopulation.
     The train screeched to a stop and the herd disembarked, moving as one numb mass towards the departures court and into one holding pen, then another. He trudged through yet another holding pen and boarded his airplane. He settled in his seat and looked out the window. The only accomplishment this modern society made that somewhat excited him was flying. Speedy travel. No inch of the earth left undiscovered. The thought thrilled him and saddened him simultaneously.
     He woke from an uneasy doze as the landing gear dropped onto the tarmac. The foreign characters on the signs atop the cargo hangars reassured him; he smiled as he surveyed his surroundings. He pulled the small rucksack from the overhead compartment, snorted at the frail humans sagging under the weight of their belongings, ignored the niceties from the crew and left the plane. He wove his way through the hurrying travelers towards the exit of the building.
     Humidity and heat hit him and he breathed the sweet, wet, lush air. A bus waited at the designated spot. A classical piano piece played from what sounded like a cheap plastic transistor radio. He snorted and shook his head. One modern invention he insisted upon: superior sound equipment. Rather no sound than bad sound. But that had long ceased to fulfill him as well.
     Now all he wanted from these people and their electrified, motorized world was the means to reach his final destination and end his journey. Then he would renounce their bustling, unimportant lives and their world forever. He needed no one. His ultimate goal? To reach a plateau of unadulterated knowledge, a pure and simple clichéd nirvana.  
     The bus ride was jerky, quirky, hot and muddy. The driver cursed evey time mud flew onto the windshield. A child pouted and a woman sneezed. He tried to ignore them and stared out the bus window. Green, lush vegetation darkened the road and he felt enveloped in his new world. A few rays of sunshine penetrated the forest and created impressive images. He smiled wider. The world as he knew it and its cares and fears faded away.
     “Dear God!” someone in front cried.
     A wrenching jerk was followed by a slamming impact. A woman screamed. Silence.
     Professor Ott opened his eyes. His glasses were askew on his face.The bus was on its side. He smelled smoke and diesel fuel. He adjusted his glasses and saw bodies strewn throughout the bus. A young man kicked out a window that looked upward and climbed out. Professor Ott secured his rucksack on his back and followed him out, appreciating what years of diligent physical fitness enabled him to do.
     He turned and glanced at the bus. Tiny, white, floating parachutes surrounded the bus and sailed on the breeze towards the sun. It looked like the breeze had blown through a field of overripe dandelions setting the seeds alight.
     He walked away. As he walked, he unpacked a pouch filled with hydration gel of his own creation which would bridge him at least a few days before he needed to find water. The glen he had spent the summer before would be a four-hour trek from here, he reckoned. No matter, he had endured worse and this last stage could be mastered. He tried to clear his mind of thought and concentrate on his march.
     Tiny, white parachutes crossed his path and floated up towards the sun. There must be a plant going to seed to create such a thing. He thought about his mother. She’d been dead for twenty years. He could smell her lilac perfume and a tinge of vanilla, butter and melting chocolate. He could see her face. Suddenly he missed her terribly. The more he tried to banish the thoughts and her memory, the more insistent the sensations became.
     A path opened onto the road on his right. He peered through a gateway in the trees and climbed a small incline towards what seemed to be a sunny patch amidst the forest. The same seed play filled this path. Memories of a girl he had once loved, years ago, flooded his mind. He was never able to express just how deeply he loved her. He felt at the time that such love was indulgent and weak; an uneducated lack of discipline. He struggled for breath.
     A bird of prey squawked behind his shoulder and he fell to his knees. A festival of songbirds answered and reminded him of sitting on his grandmother’s balcony, back in Germany. The blackbirds would congregate on the rooftops in the evening. A consuming lonliness like he’d never felt threatened to crush him. He bowed his head and allowed it to come.
     Professor Ott got to his feet and started walking back to the bus to see if he could be of any service.

Calvin #FlashFiction -2 minute read

http://www.garwood365.com/


The Crawling Prisoner Swims
     Today is July 11 and I am so frustrated I could spit. I am so fed up with trying to do so many things that don’t pay off in the end. I want something to pay off for once. 
     I close my eyes for a second and take a deep breath. Black heat rises off the asphalt and stinks like tar. I can still see the sun burning through my eyelids. I hold my hand up to my eyes and open them real slow. That old rusty water tower behind the strip mall looks like it’s gonna fall down any minute.
     Man, I need to do something daring. Maybe climb up the tower and jump. Throw myself from the top like a little bawling baby and see what it feels like to sail the zero-point-five second drop and make a big splat onto the parking lot.   
     Bells jingle and a big guy walks out of that little bakery in the strip mall I used to work in. Yeah, I worked in that bakery but I wasn’t any good at it and every time something fell on the floor I ate it, slathered with butter. Man, did a lot of bread fall on the floor, piping hot out of the oven.
     I peek in the bakery window. The girl behind the counter is alone. Boy, she’s in for it coz today’s the day I’m gonna do something daring. Now, I’m not a criminal. I’m probably not any good at it but I can get up some guts and I watch enough TV to know how it’s done.
     And I got a gun from my daddy’s gun room. No, I never shot a gun before. I didn’t even check to see if the thing was loaded before I stuck it in my belt. He got some Asian things, too, like num chucks and that metal whip thing with the point on the end. I have scars on my back from that. He used probably every one of those weapons on me. 
     He got lots of swords, too. I pull out the little shiny one from its sheath and it feels nice and light in my hands. The metal glistens in the hot sun. No, I never swung a sword before and I’m probably not any good at it but it feels nice in my hands. I slide the sword back in the sheath hanging from my belt.
     So I feel like I’m going to a showdown when I walk into the bakery, my sword swaying at my side. The girl behind the counter starts to laugh at me.
     “Who the hell you think you are? Robin Hood?” she says.
     “Robin Hood used a bow and arrow,” I say.
     “Well you know what I mean.” She turns and rummages in her bag.
     I pull out the sword slow and it makes this cool tinny sound. “Give me the money out of the register or I’m gonna cut cha.”
     She laughs again. “Stupid, you wouldn’t cut me for this amount of money. I think I have about 50 dollars in here.” She slips around the counter and pushes on by me. The door jingles as she opens it. She steps outside and lights a cigarette. 
     I look behind the counter then walk back towards the restrooms. I peek around the corner where I know the office is. The door to the office is closed. Papers shuffle and a man coughs. That’s where they keep all the money. I’m having some of that, dammit.
     The office door swings open and The Owner stands there, a cigarette hanging from his lips. “Good God, boy, you scared the living piss out of me,” he says.
     I stick my sword under his nose, just a millimeter away from his upper lip. I could shave him with this thing, I bet. No, I don’t shave yet. I don’t know if I’ll be any good at it coz my daddy isn’t and always bleeds like a stuck pig. 
     We just stand there like that for a second or two. The door behind me jingles again.
     “Don’t move or this guy gets it,” I call over my shoulder. 
     “That’s what they say on TV,” The Owner says.
     “That’s why I said it,” I say.
     “Je-suss,” the girl says. “You dope. Get the fuck out of here or I’m calling the police.”
     I turn and fly towards her. My face is burning from the heat. I pull the gun from my belt. She turns and runs out of the bakery into the parking lot. 
     “Don’t fuck with me,” I say to her. She just runs and runs. Pull the trigger pull the trigger pull the trigger
     The recoil makes me stagger like daddy does and I spin around, trying to stay on my feet. The Owner just stands in the doorway like a dumb old ox. I look up at the stupid water tower. Maybe I should have climbed up there. Jumped off. I shield my eyes from the sun and point the gun at the tower. 
     Pull the trigger pull the trigger pull the trigger. The recoil sends me flying through the air. I fall back onto the boiling hot asphalt. I shake my head like a dog and get on my hands and knees. Something sounds like thunder rumbling over my head. Metal scrapes against metal. I look up, real slo-mo, just like TV. The tower comes at me, slo-mo, too. Slop, slop, slop, water pours out the top and zishes on the asphalt. I choke, swallowing lots of that metally water. 
     Bawling and choking is all I can hear under water. My head bobs up and I hear sirens. Bawling and choking. Gagging now, too. Sirens. Feet splashing in the water. Someone pulls the gun out of my hand. I think he broke my finger. I try to paddle away. The crawling prisoner swims.