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Here’s another entry in Chuck Wendig’s flash fiction challenges at Terrible Minds. This one is Spammerpunk Horror! The idea is to write a horror story framed as a spam email. I don’t write much horror, so we’ll see how this flies with people who do. Oh yeah…try not to send anything to the email links included. I made them up, but…you know.

Return-path: ref_4879mutating@deathmask.ru
Delivery-date: Wed, 14 Oct 2014 15:05:07 +0100
X-ClientAddr: 62.94.45.238
Received: from eurostudio (ip-45-238.sn1.eutelia.it [62.94.45.238])
Message-ID: hqghumeayl.6189279543lfdxfircvs@Geoffxggbwkf.com
From: “Bathory” ref_4870mutating@deathmask.ru

To: “recipient” shane.is.cool@aol.com
Date: Wed, 14 Oct 2014 15:47:25 +0100
Subject: T..H.E_G.I..RL.S_W..I.LL_L.O..VE_Y..OU.R_FACE (ref. 4879idiot)
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/html; charset=iso-8859-1

Dear recipient:

Red Death Masques announces the beginning of an unprecedented worldwide awareness campaign regarding our prosthetic compression masks, which are on the forefront of medical technology.

We are quickly becoming the number one organization on the internet, and the world at large, supplying facial compression masks printed in the image of a patient whose face is disfigured or heavily burned. We pride ourselves on the attractive, realistic facial replicas, and have been told that the mask is more attractive than the client’s actual, pre-trauma, physiognomy.

We already have many customers, but wanted to make sure that you, shane.is.cool@aol.com, as a trusted friend, were aware of the services we offer. In the event of burns, scarring or disfigurement from battery acid we digitally scan your face, then using photographs from family, friends and social media, as well as personal interviews, we recreate your intact facial appearance, and add a touch of glamour. We are also confident that our product hides contractures, scarring and changes in pigmentation due to extensive burn damage.

In the case of an acid or vitriol attack our masks are often padded, compensating for the lost layer of fat that has been burned off under your skin. This adds a layer of comfort and protection such that you may feel more comfortable in our skin than in yours! Though we are unable to create functional eyelids to replace the ones you have lost, ours will simply give you a sleepy, heavy-lidded expression that some people find attractive. Similarly, Shane, our masks will not make your mouth less shrunken or narrow, but it will camouflage the skeletal grin you sport now that you no longer have lips.

Rest assured, no-one in the entire Baxter family will recognize that the reconnected tendons and fascia sliced from either side of your mouth with a straight razor are not functionally connected, and that you cannot actually talk or chew food. Nor will they see the hairline scars around the perimeter of your face where your skin was peeled back to the bone, then reattached.

Our product is reasonably priced, and we offer an accessible payment plan. Should you fall behind in payments we will repossess the mask, but our collection agents will be gentle, and will not cause undue harm in their duties. Unless you fight them, of course.

We recognize that your face is not currently burned or otherwise disfigured, apart from that large mole behind your right ear. As your parents are at a park screwing in the back of the mini-van and your sister is getting blacked out drunk at a party it is an ideal time for an agent to arrive in your basement to amend this situation. He will arrive momentarily, and, conveniently, carries a 3D scanner, so you can avail yourself of our services as soon as you become a member of our target market.

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The Reaper’s Nursemaid

Yeah, I’ll be changing the title on this one. 🙂 This week I completed the flash fiction challenge at Terrible Minds more than a day early. Go me. The challenge was to choose a title from two lists of words, then write up to 1500 words based on that. This is a little over 1300 words. I’m curious whether this steps into the realm of cultural appropriation. Obviously I don’t want to just write about white Canadian dudes, and I think I treated the characters and the cultural setting with respect, but I’d welcome commentary on that front.

 

 

He didn’t look like much when Lalan found him—a scrawny, squalling thing barely wrapped in a dirty rag—but she picked him up and took him in nonetheless. A childless widow, she had no baby bottles in her little room, so she soaked a cloth in goat’s milk and squeezed it into his screaming mouth. He settled down immediately. She wondered why someone would leave a helpless baby in an alley, but when she looked in his eyes she knew. There was an emptiness in his eyes…no, more like a window into a void. Then he started crying again and her heart opened up. She held him to her breast and rocked him until he settled, and knew that he was now her son.

She named him Daya, and raised him to be strong, and kind and good. He had no close friends, as the children seemed to sense that same darkness within him, but he still spent his afternoons playing cricket at the Parade Ground, or walking with friends past the Cheena vala on the waterfront. Once she caught him and two other boys throwing rocks at a pi dog they had cornered. She chased the boys away, let the dog run free, and pulled him home by the ear. She didn’t speak a word the entire way, but when they got home she sat him down and lowered herself to look into his eyes. They were still unsettling, but they were the eyes of her son, and she didn’t flinch.

“Daya, my love, why did you do that? Why were you hurting the dog? Why were you being cruel?”

“But Mama! Arun and Shashee said that dogs don’t matter, and there are so many of them!” He had trouble holding her gaze, and looked worried. She touched his cheek.

“My boy,” she said, “Everything, and everyone matters. Humans, animals, plants—we all have souls. The Divine is within all of us, and causing another creature to suffer doesn’t just hurt them, it hurts us. When you threw a rock and it hit the dog, do you think the dog was in pain?” He lowered his eyes and nodded briefly. A tear began to track down his cheek.

“If someone threw a rock at you, would it hurt you? What if someone did that to me?” He looked up and his nostrils flared.

“If someone did that to you, Mama, I would kill them.” She covered his mouth with her hand.

“No, sweetness, you would not, but it would hurt you as much as it hurt me. It is the same with the dog. You hurt the dog, and it hurt me, and it hurt you.” She sat on the floor and pulled him down onto her lap. He was almost too big, but he rested his head on her shoulder and sniffled.

“Daya,” she said, “there is something special about you, something different. I don’t know what this thing is, but I know it means you are special, and you will be important in some way. That is why I gave you your name, which means kindness, to remind you. You must be kind, gentle and good now, when you are a powerless child, so that when you grow to be a man you will still be kind and gentle and good.” She stroked his hair and wiped his tears with her sleeve.

“Mama, did I hurt my soul when I hurt the dog?” he asked.

“No, my love. We read in the Gita that the soul is a spirit that a sword cannot pierce, the fire cannot burn, the water cannot melt, and the air cannot dry. Your soul will not be damaged, but it is still your dharma to be kind and compassionate. Now have a cookie and go play.”

As Daya grew he became more solitary. He was no longer asked to join in the cricket, and he often walked by himself along the promenade, passing by the Dutch cemetery, or stopping to pet a dog who wasn’t there. He explored the town, and knew every path or short cut there was. Passersby or old schoolmates didn’t greet him if they passed and he wondered what he had done to be ignored. After some contemplation he realized it was not done out of unkindness, they were just unwilling to acknowledge him.

That’s when he knew what he was.

He rushed home to their little room, excited, but trepidatious, as he knew he had to leave Lalan. He ran in the door and gave her a hug and a kiss, then let her know about his revelation.

“Mama,” he said, “I am Death.” She blanched, but he moved to comfort her.

“No, no,” he smiled. “Not a bad, scary Death, but everyone dies, and I take them on their journey. But this means I have to leave you, and I don’t want to do that.”

“Nonsense, silly boy,” she smiled. “I always knew you were destined for something great. You are a grown man who has discovered your calling, and you must follow that and do what you were meant to do. Let me pack you a lunch.”

So he set out into the world wearing his best white lungi, with a change of clothes, some books and a packed lunch of dosas and idlis that his mother had made for him. He walked far beyond his town, and when it was time for someone to die he was the gentle presence who took their soul from their body. He would explain to them how their family would prepare and honour the body with puja and other rituals, then he would walk with them toward the next step on their journey, for he knew all the paths and short cuts to everywhere. He was always kind, and welcoming, and compassionate, and all the things his mother had taught him to be. And much like in his childhood, people always knew he was around, but often refused to acknowledge his presence.

One cool December morning Lalan died, as we all must. She died at a good old age, peacefully in her sleep, and Daya was there to greet her. He embraced his mother while her body lay sprawled on her little bed, then stepped back to look at her.

“Now, Mama,” he said, “your family shall cleanse, dress and adorn your body, and once they have lit the pyres and completed the rituals you will join me on your journey to the world of the ancestors, to await your rebirth.” She clucked and shook her head. She patted him on the chest.

“Daya, my little boy, you are my family. You are all that I have, you know that. You must do these things for me.” She looked up at him. “Please.” So Death took up his mother’s body and placed it on the table. He rubbed oil and seeka on her head, then bathed her in milk and honey. He dressed her in a white dress of her choosing, and marked her forehead with turmeric. He placed her body upon a pyre he had built, then lit a braid of grass and walked counter-clockwise around it. He stepped back and reached for her hand.

“We can go now, Mama.” She shook her head.

“No,” she said. “Now you must make offerings for eleven days, to protect my soul on its journey.” He grinned at her and took her hand.

“Your soul is a spirit that a sword cannot pierce, the fire cannot burn, the water cannot melt, and the air cannot dry.”
“Don’t you quote scripture to me, boy! I know what has to be done.” He held on to her hand and began walking out the door.

“It is not just scripture, it is the truth, Mama. People who need protection on their journey don’t have Death as a son. I will protect you. I am your son.” She rested her head on his shoulder, and they walked into the night.

 

 

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Lusts: A Delightful Mania

Chuck Wendig’s flash fiction challenge this week was a  Random Title Challenge, wherein you chose from a list of ten randomly generated strings of words and that became your title. I threw in a colon. Hope that doesn’t break any rules.

 

It all started because I was bored Friday night. My friends were off at some festival or visiting family, and I wanted to do something interesting for the weekend. What better way to spend some time alone than to go on a little trip through the doors of perception.

It’s not like I was some kind of hardcore user or anything. I’d sparked up a joint once or twice a year, and I took mushrooms before a Laurie Anderson gig once. That was trippy. The music made colourful squares and triangles in the air, and when I went dancing afterward I felt like my ponytail was pulling me around the dance floor. Anyway, as soon as I figured out that was what I wanted I hopped a bus and went to see Nipper.

“Elwood! Good to see you!” he said, pulling me into his living room. In retrospect his enthusiasm should have warned me off. “You’re just the man I wanted to see. I’ve been working on something I call Sports Day Orange Drink, and its getting rave reviews. I want you to try it.” Nipper was less of a dealer than a skilled chemist who funded new experiments by selling old ones.

“What is it?” I asked.

“It’s like E, acid and a big hug all mixed together,” he explained. “You’ll be tripping balls in no time.” He reached into his pocket and took out three pills, wrapped them in paper torn from a weekend Get Fuzzy strip and handed me the package.

“Why do you call it Sports Day Orange Drink?” I asked. Nipper grinned.

“Because it’s warm and sweet and when you’re done you line up for more.” I raised an eyebrow and shrugged. That sounded better than being naked under an overpass chowing down on some poor guy’s face, so I’d give it a try. I slipped Nipper a twenty as I shook his hand, and headed out the door.

I’d planned on going home before taking the little tablets, but it was a warm, clear evening, just cooled down enough to be comfortable, and I didn’t have to drive anywhere. I slipped the comic strip envelope out of my pocket (Bucky Katt exclaimed “Sweet monkey dumplings!” at me), fished out a tablet and placed it under my tongue. There was a 7-11 ten minutes away and I figured I’d let this dissolve as I walked up Lakewood, get a Slurpee, then head over to Victoria Park and spend some quality time on the swings. I waited for any effects to manifest, but I was a block away and still felt completely normal.

“What the hell,” I thought, and took the other two tablets. What was the worst that could happen? As I came around the corner and approached the 7-11 I started to feel warm, nay, absolutely suffused with warmth, from head to foot, but significantly warmer in the groinal area. The panhandler sitting by the door asked me for spare change, but I sensed a subtext, that it wasn’t really spare change that he wanted. I went in and started filling a Slurpee cup with Fanta Grape flavour, and the frozen slush poured in, forming luscious, curvy, kissable piles of purple. I shrugged.

“Hashtag YOLO,” I said, aping my 14-year-old cousins, and succumbed to the wiles of the frozen treat machine, flicking my tongue gently around the Fanta Grape tap while my fingers caressed the Red Hot Cinnamon on one side and the Coke on the other. A buzz was building in my head, and I’d almost brought the machine to a messy climax when the 7-11 clerks grabbed me, pulled me close to their polyester chests, and tossed me out on the sidewalk. It was disappointing to come so close and be denied, but I licked the sticky residue from my fingers, brushed off my shorts and looked around. The panhandler had left, so there was no comfort to be had there. My body still held a pleasant, warm haze, like I was wearing velvet y-fronts and the Red Hot Chili Peppers were providing the soundtrack to my evening and I was being licked all over by hundreds of kittens–sexy, sexy kittens.

Hastings Street seemed too bright, so I cut down to quiet, tree-lined Pender Street, thinking I’d follow through on my plan to hit Victoria Park. Maybe I’d find that panhandler and offer him some “spare change” if you know what I mean.

Then, a block away, I saw her.

She was dressed all in red, and it made her beguiling. She was not tall, but was solidly built, with curves right where they should be. She stood on the corner under a streetlight, not moving, but beckoning me forward, and so forward I went. Her name was Candy—Candy Post—and I whispered her name as I stroked her cool skin. I stroked her face and her chin, and then her mouth opened. It opened wide, gaping and inviting me into its depths. I accepted the invitation, dropping my cargo shorts, pulling my Batman Chucks through the leg holes and climbing up her slick skin to deposit my love into her waiting maw. It was going to be glorious, but my foot slipped and that was the end of everything.

You’d think a mailbox would be solidly anchored to the ground, unable to be moved. You would be wrong. As my foot slipped, I grabbed onto her…it…and shifted my other foot. The whole metal box tilted forward, and as I hit the ground it fell onto me, the mail chute slammed shut on my junk, and I dropped out of a high faster than any other time in my life. I crawled out from under the mailbox, grateful that no pedestrians were around to watch, and slunk down the street toward Nipper’s place.

“Dude! You look rough,” he said when I knocked on his door. “That was quick. Are you already back for more?” I sighed.

“No. I just wondered if I could crash on your couch. I’m not sure this is what I was looking for.”

“No worries, chief. Me couch es su couch. Hey, I’ve been working on something else!” He pulled a baggie or brown powder from a pocket. “I call this stuff Hot Dog Day. Want to try it?” I looked at the baggie, then at the couch.

“What the hell,” I said. “What’s the worst that could happen?”

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Moscow Mule

After missing several in a row I thought it was time to kick in to Chuck Wendig’s weekly Flash Fiction challenge again. This past week (I’m posting half a day late) the challenge was to pick, randomly or otherwise, a cocktail from a list, and make that the title of your story. Here’s 1566 words of Moscow Mule.

The old man pushed his way into the bar. A blast of heat followed, the summer dry heat that drove daytime drinkers into places like this—dingy, depressing, but air-conditioned. People near the door flinched, but Anton watched the man and was happy he’d grabbed a table well into the place. He’d grown up in L.A., West Hollywood between Poinsettia and Crescent Heights, but he’d never been good with heat, and this dusty gas station and strip mall outskirt hood of Bakersfield had heat to spare. He sipped the sleeve of Stella in front of him and wondered when his contact would arrive and he could get out of this shit pit and back home.

It was a good two hours drive from his apartment, and he’d have to do the return trip in rush hour, which was a hassle, but one he could withstand. He’d stashed enough cash over the last couple years running numbers and playing messenger boy for Uncle Oleg that he could get out of the business soon, maybe move to Portland or Seattle. It would be good to live somewhere with more trees and less smog. A place where you could go on a date without every baboushka in the neighbourhood knowing about it five minutes later. If Oleg’s toady Sergei wanted him to drive out to the ass end of nowhere and drink skunky beer for an afternoon it was all good. For now.

The geezer had moved to the bar, laid his briefcase on the counter, and started haranguing the bartender like Anton’s uncle and his friends did.

“Żubrówka? You’re using Żubrówka? What do you want me to do? Pour it on ice cream?” He took off his hat and wiped his forehead with a handkerchief.

“Look, young man,” he said. “I understand you’re skilled at your job and I wouldn’t want to denigrate your talents, but this is a classic cocktail. This was the toast of L.A. at one time, and you need some specific things to make it properly. Number one, the vodka must be Smirnoff. Number two, you need a nice spicy ginger beer. Not ginger ale, but ginger beer. That bite is essential. Cock ‘n’ Bull is good, and historically appropriate, but I’m not picky. I don’t suppose you have a copper mug on the premises?” The bartender cocked an eyebrow and slowly shook his head.

“I didn’t think so. Doesn’t matter. It’s a hot day. I’ll have two of them.” He watched the mixing process and nodded in appreciation. When the drinks were ready he peeled off a couple bills, tucked the briefcase under his arm and carried both drinks into the depths of the bar, looking for a seat. He settled on the table next to Anton.

“Anyone sitting here?” he asked, setting the glasses down.

“Not right now,” Anton replied. The old man tucked his briefcase onto the floor under the table, then eased himself onto the chair. His suit was a cream linen, well-cared for and perfectly tailored, but thirty years out of style. The hat was a matching snap brim fedora, full-sized, not these little trilbies the frat boy dudebros thought gave them character. He took a long tug off one of the glasses and let the taste wash over him.

“It’s a Moscow Mule,” he said. “Drinks like this were called buck or mule cocktails and everyone was drinking them in the clubs in the forties and fifties. I was a little young for those clubs, then, but I still got in. I guess I imprinted on these. Still drink them, when I drink, which isn’t often. You often hang out in this place, young man?” he asked.

“Not if I can help it. I’m waiting for someone. They should be here by now.” The old man grinned in response, a bright smile that didn’t quite reach his ice blue eyes.

“Isn’t that always the way? We sit in a bar waiting for someone to come along.” He took another drink. “Well, Anton, I’m your someone.” Anton’s eyes narrowed. He drained the Stella and pushed the mug out of the way.

“All right. What do you need me to do?”

“Do, Anton? Nothing. I just want to talk to you.” He extended his hand. “I’m Mickey. We’d probably be neighbours if I’d stayed in the neighourhood.”

“You act like you’re from home, but you don’t dress like it,” Anton said. “But now you mention it I can practically smell the borscht on you.”

“Borscht? In this suit?” Mickey chuckled. “Never.”

“So what do you want to talk about? I can’t tell you anything about business, even if Sergei sent you.”

“Sergei didn’t send me, Oleg did. I don’t need to know about business. I just need to know what happened at the Odessa Grocery last Tuesday night.”

“Ah, shit, I told Oleg what happened. I don’t want to do it again.”
“Try me, sonny boy. Walk me through it.” Anton looked at his empty glass and wished there was some beer left in it.

“Right, so Yakov and I went there to pick up a package for Oleg. The guy was just closing up, so he let us into the back room, but then he said he’d had a rough week and didn’t have the money. He’d done that in the past, but always made good. Anyway, he got mouthy and Yakov shot him, just pulled out his piece and shot him. Problem is, he didn’t know the old man was carrying and as he’s lying on the floor dying he pulls out a little gun and pops Yakov twice in the chest. I was freaking, but I grabbed Yakov’s wallet and anything that could ID him quickly and got the hell out of there.” He rubbed his hands on his jeans, trying not to fidget. Mickey drank some more and crunched what was left of an ice cube.

“Look, Anton. We both know that isn’t how it happened. You got the news to us fast enough that we boosted the cameras before the cops got there. We know what happened, but I need you to tell me the whole thing, why it happened, and remember that I’m not the judge or the jury. Oleg just sent me out to talk to you where our nosy grandmas weren’t eavesdropping. Just give me the deal and I’ll be on my way.” He took a fresh handkerchief from his jacket pocket and handed it to Anton.

“Here. Wipe your face. You’re gonna leave a salt lick on the table you keep sweating like that. Just talk.”

“Right. Okay.” Anton looked around at nothing in particular then lowered his eyes to the table. “It happened pretty much like I said. The guy started getting mouthy, saying he and Oleg went way back and he’d tell him what this little jerk was saying. It really wasn’t much, it’s just the way old guys-“ He looked up at Mickey. “Sorry, it’s just how some old guys talk. Yakov could have threatened him, or trash-talked him or smacked him in the head or something. Instead he just said ‘Who’s a jerk?,’ pulled out his gun and shot the guy. Shot him cold.”

“And what did you do?”

“I shot him. Hand to God I don’t know why I didn’t just punch him in the head and get us both the hell out of there, but I freaked and I put him down. Then I realized what could happen and I wiped the gun and put it in the old guy’s hand and got the hell out of there. I talked to Oleg then I got drunker than I’ve ever been.”

“You felt sorry for the man he shot?”

“I don’t know if I felt sorry, I mean it isn’t like he was treating us with respect, but he didn’t deserve to be shot.” Mickey finished his drink and put his hand on Anton’s shoulder.

“Here’s the thing,” he said. “This shit happens. We get into situations where we’d ordinarily react in a particular way but we can’t. We can’t because we’re professionals, and we don’t react to things like that. We work through it, maybe discuss it with a colleague later, right?”

“Yeah, I guess.” Anton let out a sigh. “Everything’s changed now, isn’t it?”

“No, Anton. The only thing that’s changed is that things are out in the open.”

Mickey slid the second glass across the table to Anton.

“Best drink in the world, son. Everyone should have at least one before they die.” He donned the fedora, pulling the brim down slightly over his right eye.

“Enjoy it.” He stood up and strolled out the door, letting in another blast of heat. Anton looked at the glass full of golden liquid, condensation running down its surface. It sounded like it would taste good, and he’d have to sit around to miss rush hour anyway, so he’d be safe having another drink. He raised it for a taste, then noticed that Mickey had left the briefcase on the floor.

Three blocks away Mickey checked his reflection in a storefront window, popped his sleeves and adjusted his hat. It made him sad to hear about Jake. He was such a good boy. Always had a hug for his Uncle Mickey. He didn’t even flinch when the bomb detonated.

A professional didn’t react to these things.

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100 Word Story

“You don’t remember me, do you?” The tattooist switched out thicker needles on the gun, better for shading. Her client tried to look up, but didn’t, as she was already etching a design into his neck.

“No. Should I?” He breathed deeply, settling into the searing pain, neither hot nor cold, as each line injected ink permanently under his skin. She looked at the source art he’d provided, blackwork of a snake entwined around a skull, then shaded the gothic serif of the T in RAPIST she’d done instead. She shrugged and cleaned the blood from the tattoo.

“You will.”

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Another first line challenge flash fiction.

Here’s my offering for Chuck Wendig’s latest flash fiction challenge. The challenge was to pick a line from last week’s First Line challenge, and write 1,000 words. I chose a line by Bob Pastorella, and worked on it gradually over the week. The first bit came to me quickly, the last was rushed last night. Oh yeah, possibly some triggers for domestic violence. 

 

When those things on Mae’s back turned out to be wings, Frankie got a camcorder from the pawnshop, figuring he’d be a Youtube sensation in less than a week. Mae said she didn’t really want to be all over the internet until Frankie pointed out that Justin Bieber got his start on Youtube, and wasn’t he richer than God now?

They decided to do a short clip, just as a teaser. Maybe, Frankie said, some Hollywood agent would see it and want to hire them. Mae sat primly on the bed wearing cut-off jean shorts and a shy smile, her wings folded discreetly behind her. The only shirts she’d cut down to let the wings through were old sweaters, so they thought they’d make it a little racy, perhaps bring in a few more clicks. She wouldn’t show any nipple, of course. Youtube seemed fine with leathery mutant clawed wings, but show any nipple and they’d lock the whole thing down. So a little modesty it was, with the implied suggestion of her skinny ass.

“Just don’t make me look like a freak, okay,” she said. Frankie fiddled absent-mindedly with the zoom.

“Well, hon, that could be a problem” he said, “Because you kind of are a freak. I mean, you’re still hot, and you’re my freak, but, you know…” Mae pouted, but didn’t respond.

The video was short and simple. Mae sat on the bed with an innocent smile, her arms across her chest. As the camera zoomed out she slowly extended the wings to their full span and her smile widened into a wicked grin. That was the whole thing. Frankie plugged the camera into his ancient PC and Mae’s wings were online in ten minutes. They sat back and waited for the accolades, but all they got, eventually, were vulgar comments, and praise for their Photoshop skills.

“We’ll do another one,” Frankie suggested a few days later. “Make it a little sexier, maybe flap your wings a bit more.”

“Frankie, I don’t want to do any more videos,” Mae protested. “I don’t want people to look at me and think I’m a monster!” Frankie leaned in, looked into her eyes and stroked her left wing. It was warm and soft, like new skin that should be somewhere more private.

“You’ll do it,” he said, “and you’ll do anything else that I say. What else are you going to do? Cut holes in the back of a Walmart vest and be a greeter?” He pinched on the pink membrane. Mae flinched and a talon at the tip of the wing bone flexed and punched into Frankie’s hand. He pulled his hand back and raised it to hit Mae. She cowered, and the wing wrapped protectively around her. Frankie lowered his hand and sucked at the wound, which still bled.

“You’ll do another video,” he said as he walked away. “It’ll be something no one will ever forget.”

 

##

 

Frankie didn’t mention filming for a while after that, and Mae tried to keep to herself. Whenever he tried to get some action she said she had a headache. She didn’t want him to see the changes that were happening to her body, like the sharp little dew claws poking out of her heels, and whatever was happening with her arms. There were other things too, things that made her feel strong and confident, like she’d felt before meeting Frankie. She could see in the dark, and began keeping lights off whenever possible, even at night. She felt awake and alert. Hell, if she didn’t know better she might even think her ass was getting bigger.

“I think we should do some porn,” Frankie said one day. “Did you know they have Youtube for porn? Porntube? Youporn? Something like that. Anyway, we do some crazy gonzo shit, maybe call it a wingjob or something, and we post it there to build an audience. Then we get our own website and charge people for photos and videos. We’ll make a buttload of money.”

“I don’t want to do porn,” Mae said, sitting up on the couch. “I don’t want to do any more videos. I don’t want people looking at me.” Frankie roughly pushed her back down on the couch.

“You’ll do this one,” he said. “If nobody looks at it maybe we won’t do any more, but goddamnit you’ll do this one, and nobody will ever forget it.” She sat back up and thought for a moment.

“All right,” she said. “We’ll do something that nobody will ever forget.”

 

##

 

Once again Mae sat on the bed, her wings folded behind her. She’d wrapped a sheet around herself, but wore no innocent smile this time.

“Christ, at least pretend like you’re having a good time,” Frankie said. He set the camera at the foot of the bed. He looked into the viewscreen, then considered moving it to the side of the bed.

“Just leave the camera there and let’s do this,” Mae said. Frankie pressed the record button then got on the bed. They started kissing, and he pulled Mae’s sheet down, exposing her breasts to the camera. He pulled back from the kiss for a moment, looking bewildered, but Mae drew him back before he noticed the drops of his blood on the white sheets. She unbuttoned his bowling shirt, peeled it off his shoulders and pushed him to the bed.

“Open the wings,” he whispered. “Show the camera the wings.” She held him down and looked into his eyes.

“Oh, I’ll show you the wings,” she said, and they opened with a snap that made Frankie’s Ed Hardy poster flutter on the wall. She saw there was still some blood on his lip from her bite and flicked out a long tongue, its tip forked, to lick up the droplets. Frankie’s eyes widened. A series of flexible spines popped out of each forearm, and she raked angry welts across his chest. He screamed, briefly, until she tore his throat out in two bites. Mae looked into the camera.

“You’ll never forget this, will you?”

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Terminal City Nightfall

Here is my offering for Chuck Wendig’s Ten Little Chapters challenge on Terrible Minds. It’s a little scattered, but was fun, and will serve as a rough outline for a novel I’d like to write. You know, when I get around to finishing something longer than 1,500 words.

One

      I hadn’t been in the office long enough for my overcoat to drip before the door opened and she came in. She looked like some ancient princess, with jet black hair, pale skin and lots of eyeliner around a set of peepers that made my mouth dry. Not a drop of rain on her. She stood at my desk and looked me in the eyes.

“What should I call you?” she asked. I gulped.

“Just call me Vik,” I said.

“How odd,” she said, then shrugged and sat. She needed me to find something very important . I told her everything is important to someone. I gave her the boilerplate–$25 a day plus expenses. She leaned in close. I smelled gardenias and the world fell away.

“Vik,” she said, “If you find this for me I’ll double your rates.”

“Lady,” I said, “You’ve got yourself a private eye.”

Two

      Double rates or not, people weren’t talking. Every fence and two-bit second story man I talked to clammed up when I mentioned an obsidian jackal statue. They knew, though. Some looked like they wanted to shut me out of a deal and some looked like they would wet their drawers. A couple flat-out warned me to forget about the statue if I was concerned about my health. This seemed like good advice. I went to my office to think.

The building was ablaze. I joined a crowd watching it burn in spite of the downpour, then headed home, where I’d feel more secure.

That’s when the zombies attacked.

They came in through the kitchen window. I had some warning, as these lunkheads had to bash the glass a few times before they got through. They were big guys, in plaid shirts and wool pants with blank stares and bloody fingers. I may not be big, but I keep a Louisville Slugger by the door and I beaned one with the sweet spot. He went down hard. The other hit me running, knocked me down and tried to eat my face. I twisted around and he bit a chunk out of my arm instead. Something hit him and he fell out of my sight, but so did everything else. I passed out.

Three

     I heard a voice call my name. I must have been dreaming.

“Viktoria…can you hear me?” asked the voice. I tried to reply, but only groaned.

“Viktoria, I need to do something to help you, something you might not agree to if you were awake,” the voice said. “Do you want to live?” I tried to nod, but all I got was another groan. I must have got my point across because I felt a sharp bite above my heart, followed by a coppery tang across my lips. The dream receded, and I rested.

Four

     I awoke in my bed. The pale princess sat across from me and a hawk-nosed man with skin like oiled teak looked out the window, standing by suspicious lumps wrapped in unfamiliar rugs. I pulled the bedsheet over my breasts and backed against the wall as I remembered the attackers and the dream bites.

“So what now?” I asked. “I’ve seen horror movies. Those were zombies and you’re a vampire? Am I dead, or just your servant?” She smiled.

“No, my detective,” she said. “Those were simply men, magically compelled to kill you, and I am not a vampire, at least not like in films. Blood is powerful, though, and my blood is ancient. I healed you, that is all. If our blood mingled again we would be connected, and you would have some of my strength, but would not be my servant.” I looked under the sheet. No bites on my arm or chest.

“Unless you wished to be.”

Five

     Nobody had spilled about the statue, but apparently I’d shaken the right branches. The Princess and her hired gun, Shep, had some leads and needed muscle with local knowledge. The statue was being held by a group of ritual magicians, and we were going to hit them hard. These weren’t dusty old ladies with Ouija boards, but the real things, with real power. I was curious how their power would match up to three feet of white ash.

Six

     “If you do well in this you could set yourself up for a comfortable life,” Shep said , looking down his nose as he lit a smelly brown cigarette. “I’m tired. After this I will no longer serve the lady. You take over and you can be who you really are.” I considered that.

“Sounds good,” I said, “but I’m already being who I really am.”

Seven

     The raid seemed too easy. We kicked in a big wooden door to find a red velvet room full of fat businessmen in ceremonial robes. They stopped chanting, and two mousey guys with spears fell over themselves getting out of our way. The statue was on a dais in the middle of the room and I went for it, then everything went pear-shaped.

Eight

     They weren’t all fat, mousey businessmen. One guy raised his hand and I flew backwards and felt one of the spears go through me between the shoulder blades. I went down, but saw the Princess on top of this guy, tearing at him like a hyena.

Nine

     I had enough strength to open my eyes and see Shep hand Her Highness the statue. She smiled and kissed him on the forehead. His knees buckled, he closed his eyes and he crumbled into a pile of white ash. I passed out.

Ten

     I lived, thanks to the princess giving me another nibble, then some of her own blood. That made the difference between an unmarked grave and a month of slow recovery under her care. I won’t die for a long time. Now I travel with the princess and do her daylight business. I wear nicer suits, and sometimes roll up the cuffs and walk on the beach in the morning, letting the surf roll over my toes.

I don’t miss the rain.

 

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