Monthly Archives: February 2014

Danza de los Muertos

The first flash fiction challenge I ever did was a Random Song Title challenge set by Chuck Wendig at Terrible Minds. Now, here’s another 1,000 word random song title flash fiction for a new challenge.

I always thought life was boring when I was alive. There were ways to spice it up, of course—music, sex and drugs come to mind—but one of those killed me, so that might say something about my judgment. That was the thing, though. I wasn’t alive, but I was still walking around and seeing what I was missing, and it wasn’t boring. I found out the hard way, by dying on my bathroom floor with a needle in my arm, that chipping a little for old time’s sake was the worst idea ever. By the time anyone noticed the papers stacking up at my door and found me I was already out walking.

I wondered if I was supposed to go somewhere. Heaven? Hell? Purgatory? The Summerlands? The frickin’ Rainbow Bridge? Nobody ever offered me an option, so I walked around the city. For twenty years. Twenty. Fricking. Years. Was I a ghost? I certainly wasn’t able to haunt anybody, rattle chains or make scary sounds. I just walked around every night in the same Dinosaur Jr. t-shirt and red flannel I had on when I died.

I always gravitated back to the East End. I had history there, with school, with bands. I used to sit in my apartment at Hastings and Main and peg biscuits at the people five stories down. The rest of the city, what I could see, was interesting, but the East Side was home. In some neighbourhoods, like Strathcona or Commercial Drive, I saw people I’d known in college or from garage bands. They’d grown up and moved on with life, most of them. They still had the tattoos, but most had traded guitars and student politics for strollers and cargo shorts.

“Look at me!” I thought. “I haven’t changed! I haven’t grown up!” But they never saw me. Nobody ever saw me. I saw a few of those guys tonight as I passed a festival spilling out of Grandview Park. Some carried lanterns, some led around little kids dressed as dinosaurs and skeletons. It looked like a good party, and why wouldn’t a dead guy enjoy the Parade of Lost Souls?

I just wasn’t into it, though, and thought I’d wander down to Trout Lake. If everyone was partying up here I could probably get some quiet down there. There was a little jetty there, not much more than a platform, that extended into the tall reeds at the edge of the lake. Sometimes I would just sit there and look at the stars, wondering what came next. Tonight, though, it looked like there was yet another festival happening. It wasn’t big or crowded, but the park seemed filled with dancers. There were lines of dancers, circles of dancers and musicians of every type winding their way through the trees and trails surrounding the lake. The music of one circle dance drew me towards it, and as I approached a woman broke from the dance and came toward me. She was tall, dressed in a formal ball gown, and wore a wide hat perched over a Bettie Page haircut. Her dark eyes shone out of a face painted to look like a skull, but adorned with bright tropical flower motifs.

“Hello,” she said, taking my hand in both of hers. “You must be Johnny! I’ve been waiting for you!” She seemed excited to meet me.

“How do you know my name,” I asked, “and…geez, you can see me.” It took me that long to realize that this woman could see me and talk to me. I haven’t talked with anyone for twenty years and she just walks up to me.

“Don’t worry,” she said. “We heard you’d be coming down. You can call me Catrina. Now come dance with me!” She grabbed my hand and pulled me into the circle.

Snare drums signalled the start of another dance, sticks beat and clicked with the rhythmic precision of a military tattoo. A bass drum was the heartbeat driving us forward. Nasal high-pitched pipes alternated skirling verses, working slowly to a fever pitch.

I didn’t know the dance, but it wasn’t difficult to learn. We spun to the right eight times, did a little hop, then spun back to the left. Then we did that again. Then men spun into the middle, then women, or really anybody who feels like spinning into the middle, and there was some ritual flirtation. I found that if I watched Catrina I picked up the footwork, and the dance flowed through me. She caught me watching her and smiled brightly.

Then the music got slow and somber. We did the same steps, spinning around the circle to first one pipe, then two, then all three droning in morose harmony. Moving that slowly I got a better look at the people around me, and saw that they came from all backgrounds. It was like everyone had a sign around their neck saying ‘This is what I used to be. I am not that now.” Bankers, construction workers, artists and librarians stepped hand in hand to music that swirled through the night. As the music built to its former intensity I saw a hawk-faced man with a grey beard and flowing hair spin a tiny woman, her gentle eyes shining a love that transcended life. A solid-looking bald man with a goatee dipped a reverence toward an intense redhead with paint spatters on her white t-shirt and a rapier at her hip. In the middle of the circle a man in a green plush Cthulhu costume danced to a drummer only he could hear.

The music, and the dance, were back to full speed and I could tell the troupe wouldn’t stay here long. Catrina turned to me and reached out her hand.

“Come with us,” she said, and I could tell that she would brook no argument. I grasped her hand, which felt warm and soft, though I could see both of our hands were simply pearlescent bones, and we danced into the night.

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One-Gilled Girl (with apologies to the Thickets)

Here’s another Chuck Wendig Flash Fiction challenge, 1500 words of Twisted Love. It’s a little disconnected, and leaves a lot of loose ends and unanswered questions, but I guess that’s why it’s flash fiction. It was fun to write anyway.

The first time I saw her she was buying mangoes in the organic section at Donald’s Market. She had picked one up in each hand, and was gently squeezing them to test for ripeness. I reached across the bin to grab one and our eyes locked as we each dandled the ripe fruit. Her eyes were huge, a light blue verging on grey, and her skin was so pale that she probably bought SPF 60 sunscreen in bulk Costco buckets. It worked for her. I’m an outdoors, environmentally conscious kind of guy. I don’t usually go for pale urbanites, but there was something about her that drew me in, and until she grinned shyly and looked away I’m not sure I would have been able to stop looking at her.

I may have fallen in love right there.

I ran into her again outside the WISE Hall late on a Saturday night. I’d been shooting stick and having a few pints with Tim and Phil, but I needed to get outside and be somewhere I couldn’t touch the ceiling with my hand. Even with the separate smoking section it gets pretty close in there, and I couldn’t sink a called shot to save my life anyway. There were a few of us out there, just chatting. You kind of have to keep it down or the neighbours complain. Anyway, I was talking to this dude Keith I used to know back in the day from anarchist stuff, he works on a tugboat now, and she walked up. She didn’t stop, but caught my eye as she pulled open the door. I stopped talking, but my mouth didn’t stop moving, and the door had closed, quieting the bar sounds before buddy poked me in the ribs.

“Who the hell was that?” he asked. “It looked like she cast a spell on you or something.” I shook my head.

“No. Um…I’ve seen her around,” I said. “I just think she’s really hot,” I also said. “I think this is who I’m going to marry,” I didn’t say. I kept that one to myself.

“Do you think maybe you should quit bullshitting with me and go talk to her?” The guy might work on a tugboat, but he apparently had two brain cells to knock together. I nodded and reached for the door handle, but it opened before I could grab it, she came out, and I almost got smacked in the head.

“Oh my gods! I’m so sorry!” She put her hand on my arm. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah,” I said. I didn’t even know her, and but I felt like I was back in high school, talking to that girl I liked. All those girls I liked, really.

“I’ve seen you before, haven’t I?” I asked, then snapped my fingers.

“Mangoes, right?” Oh crap. “I mean, you were at Donald’s Market the other day.” I blushed. She laughed.

“Yeah, I guess I was,” she said. She smelled like vanilla. I love women who smell like vanilla.

“That was a pretty quick trip inside,” I said. “Forget your card?”

“No,” she said. “I was just looking for someone, but he isn’t here. Must have left already. What are you guys up to? Having your own little party?” Keith chuckled, then waved and went inside. It was just the two of us.  Just me and this beautiful, vanilla-smelling woman wearing…holy shit, was that a BPRD t-shirt? She likes Hellboy, I thought. I love Hellboy. Wait, I thought. Was I just staring at her tits?

“We were just talking. I was thinking of heading down to Pizza Garden for a couple of slices.” Inside I was shuffling my feet and guffawing but outside I said “Did you want to join me?”

“Sure,” she said. “What’s your name?”

“Oh yeah,” I grinned. “I’m Howard.” She reached out and took my hand. Her hand was cold. Cold hands, warm heart, right?

“Pleased to meet you, Howard,” she said. “I’m Asenath.”

We did get pizza, but then we spent the night walking around the Drive and talking about ourselves and about life. After a few circuits of Grandview Park, we sat spinning on the tire swing holding hands and telling our life stories, or at least as much of them as you tell people you’ve just met. She was new to Vancouver, but had lived up and down the coast all her life. She loved seafood, did something in arts management, and her father had died tragically when she was young. She tried to gloss over that, like it was all in her childhood, but she sounded pretty raw.

It started to rain, so we went to an all night coffee place until the sun rose. We made plans to meet again, then she leaned in, pressed her soft lips to mine quickly, and ran off into the rain.

I couldn’t stop thinking about her.

We’ve spent a few evenings together, casual, not much in the way of fooling around, but I think of nothing else. It’s like she has a hook in my soul. We made plans to meet for tapas at Bierkraft tonight. If things worked well and I felt confident enough I thought I would tell her that I was falling in love with her. I could be misreading her, but I don’t think so. I’m confident dinner won’t end with my heart discarded on the sidewalk.

Either way, this will be a memorable night.

************

The first time he noticed me was a fluke. I had been following him for weeks, and should have paid more attention, but I’d grabbed these mangoes and was imagining I was holding the swarthy balls of Nyarlathotep, and was squeezing the eldritch horrors until they burst. His frenzied screams would echo through four realms and my revenge would be partially complete, but then crap, there he was. I thought I’d sneak past the spelt bread, and out the side door, but then our eyes locked. This wasn’t really a hardship. His eyes were deep green, and worked nicely with his red hair and beard. He was built solidly, in a way that suggested organic bison, lots of local microbrew and weekend hikes up the Lions. I’m a white wine and ceviche kind of girl. I don’t usually go for the grizzled hipsters, but in my weeks of watching him I saw something I’d be able to use.

He would suit my purposes. He would definitely do.

The next time we met I was prepared. I’d checked out his social networking profiles, casually chatted up a couple of former classmates, that kind of thing. He was a comic book geek drawn to women who smelled like cookies, and he spent virtually every Saturday night at this basement bar in a residential neighbourhood. Some eye makeup and a quick visit to Thinkgeek would make this as easy as poking a Shoggoth in the eye.

I strategically timed my entrance to the WISE so that it was just him and one other guy outside. I walked past and squeezed out the tiniest bit of pheromones as I caught his eye and went inside. There was a line-up to sign in, so I didn’t even have to pretend to look for somebody. I just stood there for a few moments, then rushed through the door. I thought I’d bump into him, but he hadn’t even moved so the door whacked him in the shoulder and I was able to get a hand on his arm as I apologized. That was lucky, as my body chemistry works better skin-to-skin than just wafting through the air.

We walked, and I started gaining his trust and interest. I was able to get around the park enough times to create a protective circle so we weren’t bothered, and was able to hold his hand and work my chemical magic on his system. I thought about my plans for him and felt a little bad. He was actually an interesting guy. Under other, drastically changed, circumstances, we might have clicked.

We planned to meet tonight for tapas and Belgian beer. I suspected that, over a glass of fermented balsamic vinegar, he will profess his love for me, and I will return the favour. A girl needs to look good, so I took up my hand mirror and painted my face, making me look once more like something I am not. It wouldn’t have to last long. Once I had his love I would squeeze the sanity out of him like juice and feed him to the Old Ones, but until that time I needed to play my part. Foundation and concealer masked my beautiful green complexion, liquid eyeliner turned me into a Sailor Moon fan’s wet dream, and the look was completed with rockabilly scarlet lipstick. Once finished I realized that I had some lipstick on my teeth, so I popped a slender tentacle out of my v-neck shirt and flicked it off.

This would be a memorable night.

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