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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!”

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#Fantasy #FlashFiction-2 Minute Read

Deer Mouse

          Protective Plague

     From the overlord’s house came a quiet but vicious argument. The other houses circling the town square stood quiet: my sister’s red wooden house built up on stilts after that last flood; the iron workers’ blue housing complex and their adjoining workshop also built on stilts; the dark-brown community building, windows tightly shuttered.
     The fountain in the square bubbled behind me. A mouse scurried around its stone base. The door of the overlord’s house slid upwards. He appeared on the step of the stately, tiered structure decorated with ornate wooden carvings. A woman’s sobs came from inside the house. He raised his nose to the sky and sniffed at the air, his wiry hair standing on end. He approached me by the fountain.
     “The weather has changed,” the overlord said. His heavy black cape fluttered behind him.
     “You notice such things, Master? Today is the Turn of the Season. Coupled with the full moon,” I said.
     “Oh, that’s why you tie those wreaths of herbs. Silly old traditions,” he said.
     “We will burn them at sunset on the Field of Fruition. These old traditions give the people comfort.”
     “This year we will initiate my new ritual,” he said. “Your traditions have no power. A deity is not appeased with burning herbs.”
     “With what then, Master? Burning flesh?”
     I heard a door slide open and turned suddenly. My sister appeared in her doorway, carrying a spray of reeds. Her two daughters, one head redder than the other, followed behind her. They carried baskets overloaded with sage and wormwood. Their door slid shut.
     “Good day, Master,” she said, dropping her reeds at my feet.
     I gathered three in my hands and began to braid their stalks. Her daughters set the baskets down on the stone steps of the fountain. My sister pulled both girls to her side.
     “Why is the workshop so still?” I asked her.
     “The men have crossed the ford to the settlement beyond the Never-Dying Forest. They’ve taken our surplus of food and hope to trade. Years ago the forest villagers made fabrics.”
     The overlord chuckled. “Those foolish men. No one lives beyond the water and the forest but barbarians. They don’t trade, they take.”
     “Then that will be our petition tonight at the bonfire,” I said. “The safety of all villagers involved, whether they come from Forest Village or Field Village.”
     “There will be no bonfire tonight.”
     By silent command, the double doors on the community building slid upwards. A group of leather-clad men, heavily armed with glinting steel, took two steps forward. Five young woman draped with dirty white shifts, hands and mouths bound, knelt behind their ranks.
     “My new Turn of the Season tradition starts today.” The overlord nodded to the troop. The men grabbed each of the young women under the arms and dragged them into the square. They were forced to kneel on the stone steps by the fountain. The overlord’s daughter was among them.
     “These women will be taken against their will on the Field of Fruition. The Mighty Deity will come and take the eggs as soon as they are fertilized. They belong to him. I will summon him. He will raise them in his glorious mountain realm.”
     I threw my reeds aside. “Our traditions and petitions are based on protecting our villagers, not sacrificing them.”
     “These women are ripe. We have prodded them all. The One True Deity will have his sacrifice.”
     “Men cannot enter the Field of Fruition at the Turn of the Season. It could bring us harm so close to the coming winter.”
     “Your foolish traditions cannot keep the furies of winter at bay. Harm will only come if one of these women becomes pregnant. She will be executed.”
     The midwife let out a shriek behind her gag. The barrel maker’s wife sniffed. The overlord stroked his daughter’s matted hair. 
     “If she becomes pregnant,” he said, “we will know she enjoyed the act. She will have defied the Mighty Deity. Women cannot become pregnant when taken against their will.”
     He took two steps forward, his face a breath away from mine. “These women can be saved. You give me the names of four others to take their places. You will be the fifth.” 
     He turned with a swish of his cape and, followed by his armed mob, disappeared into the community house. 
     My sister and I gathered our wreaths and we walked out of the square towards the fields. The sky was overcast and the rains threatened. Two women and their children bundled straw and had piled it neatly on a cart. Two other women whacked the lazy ox and the cart jerked into movement.
     In the middle of the Field of Fruition, wooden planks leaned on each other like an inverted cone. They came from the old demolished barn. In its place stood a new one. Since the great flood, our village had prospered. Mice scurried under my feet. We had enough grain that even the mice could multiply.  
     “The moon is coming up over the trees. We will start the fire now.” I said.
     My sister scraped her knife on her stone and sparks flew into a pile of straw. She convinced the fire to burn and we fed the flames until the dried planks ignited as well. I raised my wreath of braided reeds over my head. Mice scurried out from under the burning planks.
     My peaceful but protective petition rang silent in my thoughts. I threw the reeds on the fire. Sparks flew into the low storm clouds.  Mice scurried over my feet. I looked down and the Field of Fruition was no longer autumn-green, but mouse-grey. A layer of mice had formed, completely covering the Field. Well, this was not what I had in mind, but it would do. No one would enter this field tonight. 
 
 

#FlashFiction Friday

Year 299
Flash Fiction by Laura Libricz

The wind blew the massive oak door open and the page struggled to keep it from shattering against the stone wall. The snow blew vertically into the hall as the king stomped in, shaking the ice from his long black braid. Together, the king and the page forced the door closed, defying the anger of the raging storm.
     The page relieved the king of his saturated fur coat and threw the coat to the awaiting maid. The king sat down on the low bench and two other maids pulled his boots off. He winced as if this pained him. Suddenly, all five of them looked up into the darkness of the high ceiling; the wind whipped and the tower moaned.
     “We must move on into the next chamber, master,” the page said. “The tower is no longer stable. It could crash under the weight of the snow.”
     “Then this portion of the castle will be uninhabitable, too, my boy. We cannot build a-new, not in these conditions. If we are to believe their books, the snow should stop this year. If we are to believe that those men existed at all.”
     The king stood and the page ushered him through a low door into a warm, intimate chamber. A fire crackled under a large iron tank and two maids stood at the ready, their faces warm in the fire’s glow.
     “Have you heard the latest theory?” the page said. “That the world began 299 years ago and all the stories of a society before ours cannot be proven. They say, we are the only intelligent beings to have ever roamed this frozen planet.” He unsnapped the king’s black tarnished armor, removed the breastplate, the backplate and the legplates. “Flora, run the bath,” he said.
     The young blonde maid tapped the iron tank and hot water spilled into the copper bath tub. The somewhat older, dark-haired maid sprinkled handfuls of lavender into the steaming water.
     “Fauna, take these.” The dark-haired maid came to the page’s side and carried the armor away, into the shadows.
     “I do not believe this new theory,” said the king. “No king would have led his people to inhabit such a barren, frozen land.”
     The page poured two mugs of steaming spiced wine, handed one to the king and sipped cautiously at his own. “But surely no intelligent beings would devour and decay a civilization to the point of ruin and an eternal blizzard? I believe this new theory.”
     The king handed his mug to Flora. She set the mug aside, unfastened his shirt string and pulled the soiled and soaked fabric over his head. Three deep welts adorned his waist. She ran her finger over his wounds. Fauna produced a small pot of salve from the fold of her apron and gently doctored his split skin.
     “And what do your theories say about the ice tigers? Are we maybe decendants from their kind? By the way, our hunting party brought back three. We now have meat for a few weeks.”
     Fauna stripped the king’s torn trousers away and led him to the bath. The two women helped him climb up and over the edge and descend the ladder into the tub. He let out a growl of relief as he settled into the aromatic, healing water. 
     “One more thing, master,” the page said.
     “Can it wait until I am finished here?”
     “We need to discuss this tonight.”
     “Leave me with my maids. We will talk in the morning.”
     “There may be no morning, master.”
     “All the more reason to leave me with my maids, page.”
     “We only have enough fuel for the generators to get us through the night. If that. Then we are on our own. Our last bit of peace and comfort will be gone.”
     “Who was to secure our fuel?”
     “The last of the Morixen, master. They contracted the sickness after you left for the hunt and died while you were away.”
     “Page, go. Now.”
     The page bowed low and disappeared noiselessly behind a curtain. Fauna approached the king and undid his braided hair. Anointing his hair with soothing oil, she worked it into a lather and Flora rinsed his hair with warm, scented water. Both women took a brush each and scrubbed the hunt from the king’s soiled and scratched hands. His feet were sore and blistered and he let no one touch them.
     He pulled Fauna to his side and kissed her generously on the mouth. “Undress her,” he said and pointed to Flora.
     Fauna approached the petite blonde, pulled on her apron and unbuttoned her blouse.
     “Slowly,” the king said.
     The maid did as she was told.
     “Kiss her.”
     Fauna kissed Flora on the mouth, pulled her into an embrace and undid her pinned-up hair. Golden curls cascaded down the naked girl’s back.
     “Help me out of here,” the king said, his taught muscles gone to mush in the warm water.
     Zzzzzzzt. Zzt. Zt.
     Winds howled and that familiar snow-white blindness pierced the king’s protective goggles.
     Zzzzt. The warmth of the fire.
     Zzzzzt. The cold of the snow.
     The warmth of the fire.
     Ice. Snow. Cold.
     The king pulled off his goggles and looked up into blocks of ice; the domed ceiling of his igloo lit by the midnight sun. His snow pants restricted his massive erection.
     The page threw a handful of snow into a pot simmering over a pathetic blue flame. “I’m sorry, master. The generator’s out. I have a party out searching for fuel. Your dream date will have to wait!”