Remembrance

She gathers another rock
right-shaped for the lake
ripples another time
that was cut in war

She gathers another sun
and bends it in her eye
day bleeds into white
stage; a silhouette rising

She meets the silhouette,
but has run out of lines–
only the old, distant waves know
and so do now-vacant coffins

She gathers another rock
right-shaped for the lake
ripples another war
no longer cut in her eye


Response to Genre Writing Challenge April 24.

The Obelisk – Fiction

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“This is the worst vacation ever!”

Even Fred, the optimist of the two, struggled to say something positive about their situation. “Yeah, it’s…not the best…but hey, at least the gas masks are kinda cool!”

“And how much are we paying for them?”

“You know,” Fred said, “this was your idea, remember?”

May muttered something in her mask. They continued trudging along the lost and vacant world, bored to tears. “So…wanna go sightseeing?”

“And see what?”

“I don’t know. Heard the Washington Monument is nearby. That might be kinda cool.”

She sighed.

It didn’t take long for the old, broken obelisk to appear in the horizon.

“Hey, that must be it!” They were soon standing before the monument, looking up.“Amazing how most of it is still standing. They must have really had some good engineers back in the day!”

He looked over at May who was staring up at the monument silently. He was only able to guess her expression underneath the gasmask. This is what she wanted, unless Fred somehow misread her. When he asked her days ago what time period she wanted to visit the first thing she uttered was The First Apocalypse.

“So…” he said, “what do you think?”

They had been together for almost a year. And things were going okay, but lately there had been distances that couldn’t be named. Maybe it was him. Maybe it was her. But Fred felt compelled to do something about it and was hoping this vacation would be that thing.

Finally, after a moment, she answered. “What?”

“…Nevermind…”

Days passed until the VR goggles were removed and the ruins of the old world plucked from their faces.

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Image by Jan Vašek from Pixabay

Response to Fandango’s Flash Fiction Challenge #10 and Genre Writing Challenge April 22.

Losing the Case – Fiction

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Image by Kira Hoffmann from Pixabay

It was the ugliest scene I had ever seen. The body looked like it had been tossed onto the couch like a discarded rag. Blood dripping onto the floor. But what was truly foul was the stench. Old bags of Cheetos bags strewn about without care. Monster energy drink cans empty across the table. Sickness crawled up my throat and wanted sweet release, but I couldn’t afford to sabotage the crime scene, not this time.

“There was a laceration to the rib and a broken collarbone. Approximately 50 stab wounds. Very nasty stuff.” I don’t know how they were able to make this determination without getting forensics involved, but I guess time was of the essence if we were going to catch the killer.

The stiff’s name was Melvin Miller. 28 years old and was a professional “gamer,” whatever that meant. But even though I was a 50 something curmudgeon who could barely operate a smartphone I knew that the world of video games was a dark one indeed. All sorts of racists, Nazis, and virgins congregated on online forums and shot each other in virtual skirmishes, taking out their frustrations which were caused by a world uncaring for their sick, deluded minds. And Melvin Miller was certainly one of these poor, wretched souls. Now, he was just another statistic. Sickening.

Later that day I went down to the station to interview the only suspect we had: Melvin’s mother and roommate, Regina. She was an overweight woman and not very attractive. Just my type. But it just wasn’t those days. A young man had been slaughtered and the sky was filled with rain and death.

“So, Mrs. Miller,” I opened with. She sat across the table. She was staring down at the ashtray which already held the bodies of sixteen cigarettes. “I understand that you did not like some of your son’s ‘activities.’ Neighbors reported arguments between you two, mainly about taking away Melvin’s video games.”

“What are you insinuating?”

“Oh nothing. Nothing. Just the fact that you killed your son.”

“WHAT? I would do nothing of the sort!”

“I see. I see…Of course you wouldn’t. After all, he was your precious son. Your baby boy. That’s why you didn’t kill him, on purpose…”

Her eyes started to water, her lips quivered, but she held it all back. She refused to cry. I did not know why.

“See, I have a theory: you two got into an argument. Probably over the fact that he doesn’t have a job and is a generally lazy bum who preferred the company of cheetos and pixelated violence over everyday responsibility. And, push comes to shove, you accidentally stab him 50 times. In the heat of passion. And you know what? It happens. It happens, what can you do? Well, other than confess…”

I smiled, knowing that I had her in my hands.

Her eyes lowered. “Can I have another cigarette?”

“Sure. Of course.” I handed her another and lit it for her. If things had been different maybe I could have taken the dame out. Maybe have made a new life with myself, helping to raise Melvin. Teaching him how to shoot an actual gun. Like a man. But, you’re dealt with the cards you’re dealt.

“I want to speak with my lawyer.” And with that her lawyer stepped inside the interrogation room. Holding two briefcases with papers falling out. Crooked eyeglasses and an unkempt tie that wanted to escape.

“D-detective Jones. I-I-I’m sorry I’m late. Traffic was just SO BAD. So bad…Oh. Hi Mrs…um…”

“Miller.”

“Right. Sorry. I’m bad with faces so I…anyway…I would like to speak with my client alone, if that’s o-o-okay?”

I leaned back in my chair and shrugged. “Fine. But watch out. She’s a killer.”

The lawyer grinned nervously at this as I stepped out. I wasn’t able to cull a confession out of her that night. But you know, things don’t always have to go your way. Things are interesting that way.

So, I was sitting home alone, watching Two and a Half Men when it happened. A loud bang rang through the air just to the side of my head. Glass cracked. I stood up and pulled out my glock. I peeked through the window and saw a car speed off. A bullet hole in my window told me all I needed to know: that I had to give up this case and retire.

And that’s what I did. After all, I was simply getting too old for this and while I didn’t mind hassling the random minority or hitting on suspects, it was time to move-on, and maybe this was God’s way of letting me know that the goose was cooked.

So I moved out to M’uahahahahmnaa, an island floating off desolate and alone in the Pacific. I even married one of the natives. Life was good. Until I received the letter. Apparently, shortly after I retired, Mrs. Miller was found dead. An apparent suicide. But something in my gut knew otherwise. That there was something more to this murder. Something lurking in the dark, seedy underbelly of competitive video games, but I was an old man basking in the sun. Beer bottle in hand. Watching the bright, blue waves singe the sky. Paradise kept me here. And I kept to paradise. The world had its own affairs and, damn it, that’s all I needed to know.


A very deep and literary response to The Friday Reminder and Prompt for #SoCS April 20/19, Word of the Day Challenge: Ugly, and Genre Writing Challenge April 21.

SoCS badge by Pamela, at https://achronicalofhope.com/

Force Majeure

The poet will soon get tired
of the compulsion that drives
his veins to the silent sun.
And the poem he will write
has already withered in the air.
But it’s all just music. A hooplah
enjoyed by old ladies and children
in a messy dancehall. There is no art
clinging to his bones. They just carry
him to an orange sky, hoping to impress
the air with something deeper
than meaning. But only a decent song
breeds from his lip.

I hope he gets tired
of the sun and the entirety of waves
brushing against the sky.
They offer only a soundless voice.


 

A response to Weekend Writing Prompt #102 – Impress and FOWC with Fandango — Hoopla.

Master – Fiction

“You wretch! Don’t you know who I am?”

The man didn’t answer, seeing only a small, elderly man.

“I’m Edward James Wafer! SIR!”

This did not abate the man’s confusion.

“And let me tell you something, I draw a lot of water in this town! And I demand RESPECT! Now you shall do as I say and pick-up after your miserable, dim-witted mongrel before I dispatch the authorities!”

The man scratched his head. “Um, I don’t have a bag–”

“–Then go GET ONE!”

“Right. Right.” The man nodded and hurried back home with his little boston terrier trailing behind on a leash.

“And I will be waiting!” As the man walked back up the hill, the old man’s gaze shifted down toward the brown nuggets baking underneath the summer sun. He understood it. People are lazy. But that was no excuse.

Eventually, the man returned with a plastic bag wrapped around his hand. He bent over and plucked up the turds as Edward supervised. “Gonna watch, huh?” The man asked in a quiet, yet irritated tone. There was something childlike about it, Edward thought. Most people were merely children with mortgages.

“There we go.” The man said. “Good enough?”

“What do you think?” But before the man could answer, Edward walked past him.

It didn’t take long for Edward to fill the empty boxes. Ever since he was a child, he had a knack for puzzles and games of knowledge. However, as he entered adulthood he set aside such things to focus solely on business. But, now that Edward was an older gentleman, the focus returned to once-childlike things, like the daily crossword.

His eyes lifted away from the newspaper and towards the faces that crowded him on the bus. He noted the diversity amongst them, yet none really stood out. As he’s gotten older he’s realized that most people were mere copies. There were, according to his estimate, 6-7 different people that have been cloned a billion times. Sure, there are variations, of course, but even these near-infinite permutations do little to alter the fundamental lack among most people.

Edward recalled the man from earlier walking his dog, and how, even though it was his responsibility to remove any excrement his dog left behind, he still acted like a petulant child when rightfully scolded. Minutes prior, Edward was watching from his porch. He just knew that, as soon as the dog got into position, that the man was not going to pick-up after it. It was so easy for Edward to predict a complete stranger’s actions (or lack thereof.) But, despite this, Edward wondered if the man was going to change, even a little bit, after Edward confronted him. Well, there was no reason that this would ever be the case. After all, people rarely changed. But sometimes Edward hoped that people would step from their molds and self-reflect and realize the path that they’ve been railroaded to, and become like him. Accomplish things that no one would expect. Edward was once a great man who helped build cities and even countries. But smaller minds forced him to retire. Pity.

Such thoughts swirled away as the bus screeched to another’s stop. Edward mindlessly watched as people got-up and were replaced by others. Denizens of the moment. He sighed and plastered himself to the newspaper once again.

“Edward. How come you haven’t done your homework?”

He hated that. Why couldn’t his father just ask him to do his homework? Why did it have to turn into an interrogation?

“Um…” His father stood over him, anticipating, so Edward searched for an answer that would appease the old man, at least for the moment. “I was about to, sir.” Good one, Edward.

“You were about to? Hm. Interesting.” His father had a deep, monotone voice, which he never raised. Yet, its power was still felt by the young Edward.

“Sorry…”

“Don’t be sorry. I just thought you cared about your studies.”

Edward was about to say something, but caught himself. Sometimes, he wished that his father would yell at him instead. He wasn’t sure why. Maybe because the way his father addressed him, it made it seem like Edward Junior wasn’t worth the effort of being berated.

The rest of the night sat in his room. His mind disappeared into thick, voluminous tomes until it was time to sleep. He felt stupid. He should have known better. Maybe he could do something to make up for his father’s displeasure? No, that would just be an empty gesture done for the wrong reasons. His eyes soon closed in on themselves and everything slipped into the loneliness of dream.

“What is this?”

“Oh. Just thought we would do something different. Besides, I was too tired to cook. Long day.”

“’Long day’…” Edward sat at the table which was populated by white boxes of Chinese take-out.

Soon, the two of them were eating in silence.

“Come on. It’s not that bad, for the most part.” She had a point. The kung pao chicken was passable. She smiled. “Besides, it’s nice to ‘spice things up,’ right?”

This was her idea of spicing things up?

“So, how was your day, dearie?”

“You know I don’t like that.”

“What?”

“When you call me that. ‘Dearie.’ It’s completely infantile.”

Justine chuckled at this and then continued eating, occasionally looking up at Edward with a glimmer in her eyes.

But Edward just sat there, barely eating. He watched her. Frustrated with her. Frustrated with himself. “You know when I found you, I didn’t really want you. But I figured that, as embarrassing as have one might be, a wife-holograph, could at least help to pass the time. But…I don’t know. It doesn’t feel right.”

“Feel right?”

“Well…I’ve changed your personality how many times? But…I don’t know. Forget it.”

Justine shrugged and the two continued eating. Or at least one did. The other merely performed a simulated act with holographic chicken and fried rice.

Edward never married. He had a couple of potential mates in his youth, but, you know the story: business, long workdays, ambition…But Edward also didn’t want a recreation of his parents’ marriage. He didn’t want to be a repeat. He knew that, even if he tried, he would still end-up similarly to Edward Senior. This was a fact of his nature that he accepted, and calculated accordingly.

That evening, Edward listened as Justine cleaned-up the kitchen. He had tweaked her numerous times, but something always ended-up “off.” This could have also just been her model. He purchased her at a garage sale on a whim and ever since then he’s just been displeased with her, and himself. Yet, the idea of getting rid of her, or shutting her off indefinitely, did not seem like ideal solutions either.

Soon, the lights were off in the rest of the house, and Justine sauntered into the bedroom and slowly pressed herself against him. “How does this feel? Not too tired, are you?” He had tweaked her to be a little bit more combative, but instead of changing her nature, it just seemed like he had given her a new mask.

“Since now that you’re officially retired, I thought we could go somewhere. Like Cabo. Or Brussels. Or we can stay here and rot like two prisoners. Your choice. Your preference. Master of the house.” Edward didn’t like that, which is why Justine was programmed to say it. He shut off the lights and slipped into a dreamless hour.

Edward never liked fishing, but his father loved it. In fact, it was the only thing he enthused over. But to Edward, it was an almost savage thing. Preying on the dull nature of fish with bait. And even if one tosses the fish back into the water, it’s still scarred by an experience it could barely comprehend. Yet, despite Edward’s displeasure, he would put on a face to please his father. He didn’t want to ruin “his thing.” And, well, there was also something rewarding about being around his father in a less formal setting, allowing him to catch a side of his father that he wasn’t normally allowed.

But there was one time when they sat at the side of the river, lines drawn: “Father, sir?”

“Yes son?”

“Do fish have feelings?”

Edward Senior looked at him and paused until finally stating, “No. They do not. They can perhaps feel pain, but it’s a facsimile to what humans feel. A mere biological reaction.”

“But…isn’t that still something?”

“What do you mean?”

“Like…I mean, humans feel pain. Maybe it’s a higher pain, but it’s still pain, similar to a fish’s. Maybe the things we feel and think are more advanced, but maybe we’re not that much more advanced than fish. I don’t know…perhaps we’re not that special…”

Edward Senior’s gaze remained on the silent water. “I know you don’t like this, son. You may think you have your secrets. Your own world, but as your father and as someone who is well-read and reasonably intelligent, you’re quite transparent to me. So, next time I take one of these trips, don’t feel obligated to come. Have your own interests.”

Edward was stunned. His hands shook on the fishing rod. That was the last time he went on a fishing trip with his father.

Years later, Edward watched the gentle water move along, carrying the light of the sun. He saw some fish swimming by, unaware of the potential dangers of the fishing lines waiting for them further down. Ever since that final trip with his father his ego was reasonably shook. His father knew everything about him; yet, he knew little about his father and the world. The world, especially, seemed to become an unknown, incomprehensible being, beyond him. But now that he was older, a part of him laughed at this. Not because he feels better or wiser, but because there wasn’t much else to do.

He was forced to retire. Forced to fill his hours with bus rides and dainty little strolls. But he wasn’t bitter, he told himself. Because he knew it was going to happen. He had accomplished much, but the smaller minds perceived him as a threat. Which he was. However, he pitied them more than anything. Were they even aware of their own egos? Were they conscious to the push and pull of their own desires and weaknesses? Perhaps they were, in a limited way. But it wasn’t enough to allow them to transcend the fates they set for themselves. This made him sad. And he knew why.

“Honey. Are you okay?”

Edward turned. Justine stood nearby, her visage glittering, distorted by the sun’s light beaming through her. The portable projection device he had for her allowed her to be anywhere, just as long as she was at a reasonable distance to him and the device. Despite this, she was still somewhat fractured by the pleasant, summer afternoon. He could, however, still see her smile. “Do you need to rest?”

Edward shook his head. “No dear,” and they continued their stroll along the river.

 

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Short story response to Story Starter Challenge April 13, Three Things Challenge: PL58, and Word of the Day Challenge: Portable.