Chat

Have you ever wondered if you’ve been someplace, or seen a friend, for the last time? I mean, I hear all these stories about, you know, couples having an argument and he storms out, then gets hit by lightning or a drunk driver or something, and she’s plagued for the rest of her life with the knowledge that the last thing they did together was argue.

Or places you’d like to go, things you’d like to see, maybe for the first time, maybe one more time. The whole bucket list thing. I’ve never been to Europe, for example. Nothing I particularly want to see there, but it seems kind of, well, off that I’ve been around so many places, most of the US, Canada, Japan Korea China Australia freaking Istanbul. I mean, yeah, I guess Istanbul is technically Europe, but you don’t really think of it as such, do you? Anyway, yeah, Mexico, Malaysia, I’ve ridden the Trans-Siberian Railway, but I’ve never been to, like, the real Europe. Paris. Germany. The Vatican. I feel like I should go there, should start making plans, and that’s the key, you have to plan things, you’re not going to just accidentally take the wrong exit on the freeway and end up in Dusseldorf, are you? I mean, not unless you live near Dusseldorf, duh.

My point is, you have to live your life, you can’t just go stumbling about hoping that good things are going to happen. Every day before I go to work, I make sure to kiss my wife, so that if anything should happen to either of us, the other will always have that one last good memory. Every day I’m thinking about what I want to do next, how I’m going to improve myself, through study, or travel, or just new experiences.

Like, the wife and I are going scuba diving in Okinawa in two weeks. Never done it before, and it looks fun, so we’re off on a mini-vacation. I mean, it can be dangerous, there’s the slight possibility that I could drown, but at least I’ll be doing something new. Heck, I might get hit by a bus on the way to the beach, might never get to go, life can be a real bitch sometimes.

What about you, got any plans? No? Don’t worry, it’s okay because even if you’d had, well, yeah….

I could tell you that this’ll be quick, and it won’t hurt, but we’d both know I was lying, wouldn’t we?

I’m glad we had this talk.

Abuse

I had really hoped to write something totally new for the site this week, and I was making a good start when I got sidetracked by something that’s threatening to turn into a novel. I may post some excerpts later on, but for now, here’s a light-hearted tale of child abuse. Believe it or not, no trigger warnings this time.

 

John sat at the kitchen table, flipping idly through the local paper on his tablet while Mandy busied herself at the blender getting breakfast ready. “Here you go, hon,” she said, putting the protein shake in front of him. “Um, John? What we talked about last night?”

“Mm, thanks,” he said, reaching for the tall, slightly pinkish shake without taking his eyes from the screen. “Yep, I think it could be a good idea. Doing some research right now.” He raised the glass to his lips, took a swallow, and started to cough and choke. “Ugh, oh god, no-,” putting his hand to his mouth, he shot up, overturning his chair, and rushed to the bathroom, the sound of his retching into the toilet coming clearly down the hall.

“John, what is it? Was it the shake? I know strawberry isn’t your favorite, but they were out of-”

“No, that’s not it.” He emerged from the bathroom, wiping his mouth on a small towel. “The things people will do to their….well, just look,” he said, handing her the tablet and pointing.

“Free to good home, healthy Caucasian baby boy, blond hair, eyes still blue at 6 mos., birth weight-”

“No, down at the bottom. Look,” he pointed, “right here.”

“Circumcised, poor thing, and….oh, no…..Okay Google” she said, and waited for the microphone icon to flash, “Child Protective Services, Monroe County.” As the new window opened, she looked at her husband with tears in her eyes. “The things people will do to a poor, innocent child. I hope they throw those parents and the doctor in jail for a long, long time. Vaccinated?”

Roses

In Japan, the story that inspired this is filed in the “Romance” section, which is far more disturbing than anything I could write.

Also, I should probably put some trigger warnings on this one.

Done.

 

He could feel water from the sodden grass of the cemetery soaking slowly into his shoes. Father Dunn, his soft voice almost drowned out by the patter of rain on umbrellas, was murmuring about the Lord’s mysterious choice to take Dolly to his bosom so early.

He twirled the flower idly in his hand. She’d been captain of the St. Mary’s Junior High Roses, the girls’ soccer team, and the local florist had donated several hundred of them for the mourners to place on her coffin. Moving his eyes upward from the polished wood casket suspended over the damp cut in the earth, his gaze met that of John Farr, the sheriff’s department’s sole detective. The deputy gave a tight smile by way of greeting, and resumed his slow scan, looking for any sign that that could reveal the identity of the person responsible for the mangled and violated corpse about to be interred.

While the adults in the crowd were wearing dark clothes and carrying black umbrellas, those of the students, in their school uniforms, were mostly of the cheap transparent variety. The Roses were easily identifiable by their blue jerseys, worn over their navy-blue blazers, and the scabbed knees which shown beneath their plaid skirts. Jenny, the assistant captain, all angles and elbows, took shelter beneath a garish yellow umbrella, incongruous. In her free hand she held another blue jersey, which she spread on the coffin as the priest neared the conclusion of the ceremony.

Hayes.
1

“May her soul and the souls of all the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace.”

One by one, Dolly’s classmates filed past to lay their roses on the coffin. He felt a sudden pain in his thumb, and lifted his hand. A drop of blood, released by an unnoticed thorn, dripped onto the soft pink petals of the flower. Crossing himself, he set the stained blossom gently down on the jersey, next to her name. As those assembled headed slowly to the parking lot, he noticed a lone dandelion, somehow unscathed, in the grass next to the grave. It seemed out of place in the solemn scene, and he reached down, plucking it out of the ground.

“Coach H?” He hadn’t realized that he was the only one still standing there. “The girls and I are going to get some lunch. Would you join us? It’d be good for them.”

“Lunch?” His eyes moved from the bright yellow umbrella and its owner to Sister Charlotte’s concerned face. “Yes, lunch, that’s a good idea, thank you.”

His hands, of their own accord, ceased their toying, and dropped the dandelion into the grave.

Filled

Not horror, just a little bonus humor to apologize for the downtime. Thanks for reading, and enjoy!

 

After the old man was done, he pulled his tool out of my mouth and I sat up and spat. Foul, and my jaw ached, I hadn’t had that kind of treatment in more than twenty years. It wasn’t over yet; he sent the girl back in again. Not really a girl, in her mid-twenties, but you could tell from her outfit and demeanor that she was a pro. She laid me down and put a towel over my eyes “in case of splashing.” I could feel her on my lips as she told me just where to put my tongue, where to move it, when to keep it steady, and all the while my wife waited in the next room for us to finish……

Duty

The ringing of the phone by the bed ripped him out of sleep.

“Ow, shit!” Still asleep, he’d tried to pick it up with his bandaged right hand. The hand he’d burned earlier that day at work, which was now throbbing. “Yes?” he mumbled blearily into the receiver.

“Get down here now! Number 4 won’t start, and the train’s due in at 6:28!”

“What time is it no-, wait, Richard’s funeral…”

There was a pause, and his boss’s voice softened. “I’m sorry, Kurt, your brother was a hero, and you still have tomorrow and the weekend off, but you’re our chief engineer. Duty calls. We’ve got to keep on schedule.”

“Yeah, yeah, I’ll be in soon.” Hanging up the phone, he noticed the lines of grease and soot under his nails. The stink of the job never seemed to come out of his hair and skin, and his coveralls were hopeless; his wife made him hang them outside every night. 1:14 a.m. Shit. He’d had Number 4 shut down for maintenance yesterday, and, assuming that the night shift would be able to get it running again, had finally headed home at eleven. Bad assumption.

From the other side of the bed, he heard his wife grumble, “Again? Why do you put up with this? Can’t it wait?”

“Go back to sleep, Gretchen. I know you hate to hear it, but I have a…”

“…schedule? Or is it a duty today? Duty and schedules, schedules and duty, all you ever talk about!” She made a disgusted noise and rolled over, pulling the covers off of him. Beats the silent treatment I usually get, I guess, he thought.

Getting up, he looked outside and groaned. In the scant two hours he’d been home, it had started to snow, and his coveralls, hung out over the line, had nearly disappeared beneath a thick blanket of heavy, and, he soon discovered, wet snow. Just what I need. Things got even worse when he clumsily pulled his boots on, his injured right hand aching. One of the frayed laces snapped, sending his hand flying towards his face and knocking off his already fogged glasses. “Damn damn damn damn!” Now bent, they left his whole face feeling off-kilter. As he trudged through the snow, he sighed heavily. Some days he wanted to just quit, but like he’d tried to tell Gretchen, he had a duty. Everyone did. And who am I to complain? he thought, My little brother has just given his life; a little overtime never killed anyone.

At the gate, he was greeted by the same young guard who had seen him out a few hours earlier. “Back again, Kurt?” the youth greeted him, his blue eyes sparkling cheerfully. “Thought you were free now,” he laughed.

“Yeah, yeah, I should be the freest man here by now, right? More problems, and they’ve got to be fixed before I go home tomorrow.”

The gate guard’s mood sobered. “Hey, I’m sorry to hear about your brother. He was a hero, you know?”

“Thanks” said Kurt. Actually, Richard would have laughed at being called a hero. He’d loathed the military, had even argued that the wars were making the country less safe.

“Kurt, come on! A second war? We’re barely coping with the first one! And now everybody hates us!”

But he’d gone to fight nonetheless, done his duty for his country, and it had earned him the medal that cost him his life.

Putting aside his troubles, Kurt hoisted his tool bag back up to his shoulder and headed in through the gate. The train was due to arrive in…he checked his watch, four hours and nineteen minutes, and he had a duty to make sure that all five crematoria at Auschwitz were operating at full capacity when it did.

Apologies for my absence.

Sorry to anyone who tried to check the site over the weekend, there was a hiccup with my hosting company that needed to wait for normal business hours to be fixed. They say I’m all good now, so the stories will be coming back up shortly.

New Look

Okay, done fiddling with my themes for today. I’m not completely sold on this, but I like the two column look. Like it? Hate it? Please feel free to comment.

 

-Iain

The Girl in the Mirror

First time I’ve shown this to anyone, I hope you enjoy:

 

The little girl in the mirror was gone. Had been gone for quite a while now.

The first time I’d seen her, I was coming out of the shower. Out of habit, I’d pawed for my glasses on the stand beside the bathroom sink, but when I slipped them onto my face, I gave out an involuntary gasp. There was a little girl standing behind me, dark hair, pale face, hollow, empty eyes. Or so seemed my bathrobe on the hook on the wall behind me, reflected in the fogged bathroom mirror, seen through my likewise foggy lenses.

I felt silly, a grown man, scared of a towel. Good thing Shelly wasn’t around; she’d have given me no end of grief. Not that she’d ever seemed to lack excuses to do so, after all, I had no ambition, or I didn’t make enough money, or I didn’t help out with the housework enough, or I didn’t pay enough attention to her or… I shook my head, snapping myself out of the downward spiral. We hadn’t been good for each other, but that part of my life was over and done with, no need to dwell on it anymore.

Still, I tossed the robe into the hamper with a shiver, making my way, nude, to the living room, where my pajamas lay on the opened hide-a-bed sofa. Since the breakup, sleeping in the big bed just didn’t feel right.

A few days later, she was back. A casual attempt at cleaning earlier in the day had somehow left the impression of a face on the misty surface. Smaller than the reflection of the towel had been, but still somehow the same face, the same accusation in her shadowed eyes.

Wait, accusation? What had brought that word to mind?

The next night, she was a dark hand-towel, glimpsed out of the corner of my eye as I opened the medicine cabinet, looking for a fresh tube of toothpaste. Later that week, a random swirl in my shaving cream took on the familiar shape.

I was seeing faces where there weren’t any, like when NASA thought they saw a human face on Mars. A quick check of the internet put a name to my problem: pareidolia. Like the cheerful expression of a Volkswagen.

Or the scary little girl hiding in my mirror.

Obviously, something was bothering me, but I was damned if I could figure out what it was.

So I gave her a name and made a point of greeting her when I came out of the shower. “Good evening, Miss Emily, and how are we doing tonight?”

“Oops, sorry Emmy, didn’t see you there, mind if I get my towel?”

She wouldn’t manifest for a few days, but then, there she’d be, a cobweb in the corner, a wisp of vapor coming out of the shower.

“Emily, you get to bed this instant. What would your mother say if she saw you spying on me?”

And then she was gone. I kept greeting her, carrying on conversations at times, as I shaved or toweled my hair dry, but one day I realized I hadn’t seen her for….

A week? Two?

I found myself trying to look around the edges of the mirror, pushing my cheek, my forehead, my chin right up to the glass as if I’d be able to see through, beyond the frame and past the silvered surface. Where was she?

It was useless.

One night, months after her first appearance, I grabbed a second mirror, one of my ex-wife’s old hand-helds that she’d left behind when she’d gone, trying to find the source of an itch between my shoulder blades, and, while unsuccessfully manipulating the doubled reflection, I saw her again, clearly this time, standing in the doorway, the front of her white dress soaked in blood. The mirror slipped from my hand and shattered on the floor below.

“Shit, Emily, what happened to you?” and I turned, but she was gone. Reaching down, I picked up the largest shard, a long, thin wedge the length of my hand, and looked again, just glimpsing the hem of her dress, disappearing in the direction of the bedroom. Stepping carefully, I backed out into the hallway, gaze directed firmly into the reflection of the world over my shoulder.

As I made my way into the bedroom, I began to hear her as well. It was a wet, gasping, bubbling noise. I momentarily lowered the fragment to my chest, and the sound diminished as I opened the door that had been closed since…

I tried not to look at the reflection of the bed, at the spreading stain, the glassy stare, but then a hand, fingers small and perfectly formed, reached over the top of the shard of silver. “Daddy, why?”

I raised the blade again.