Last Line Challenge

As some of you may know, I have a very unique writing style as evidenced in the article “Let’s Start at the Ending” – which you can read here: https://tanishadelill.wordpress.com/2014/03/20/lets-start-at-the-ending. I also have a tendency to write dark, sometimes erotic, stories – Just read my short story Serenity. Anyway, I am offering a challenge to anyone willing to participate. I challenge you to write a short story inspired by the last line of a movie. Below are some examples but feel free to use one of your own. The most interesting, funny, sexy or spooky will be posted on my blog for a week. Be as creative as possible but remember- no torture porn or excessive blood and guts.

“Let Me Sleep” –Insomnia

“You met me at a very strange time in my life”- Fight Club

“Now , where was I?”- Memento

‘Where we go from there is a choice I leave to you.”- The Matrix

“Why don’t we just wait a litte while… see what happens…” THE THING

“Hang on Lads, I have a great idea”- The Italian Job

“The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he did not exist. And like that… he is gone.” –The Usual Suspects

“I’m da boss, I’m da boss.”- Ragging Bull

“I’m not even gonna swat that fly. I hope they are watching. They’ll see. They’ll see and they’ll know and they’ll say, ‘Why, she wouldn’t even harm a fly’…” Psycho

“I was cured alright”- A Clockwork Orange

“The horror, the horror”- Apocalypse Now

“Still, things won’t ever be the way they were before he came. But that’s alright because if you hang onto the past you die a little every day. And for myself, I know I’d rather live.” Cape Fear

“You have no idea what I’m talking about, I’m sure. But don’t worry: you will someday”- American Beauty

“Oh yes, I believe in friends. I believe we need them, but if one day you find that you just can’t trust them anymore then what then? What then?”- Shallow Grave

“And no matter what they did to build this city back up again … for the rest of time … it would be like nobody even knew we was ever here.”- Gangs of New York

“Baby, you’re gonna miss that plane”- Before Sunset

“This place makes me wonder… Which would be worse, to live as a monster, or to die as a good man”- Shutter Island

“We each owe a death – there are no exceptions – but, oh God, sometimes the Green Mile seems so long.” The Green Mile

“Well, nobody’s perfect “- Some Like it Hot

“What a day. What a motherfuckin’ day”- Training Day

I can’t wait to see what you come up with!!!!

DayFall

thCAVO0MM3


Dayfall

The three suns of Eldorra were setting in the South when I rose from my slumber atop my down mattress. The cold had crept into the loft that was my bedroom and chilled my bones. Careful not to wake my sweet sister Lua, I dressed in my warmest jumper and fluffy woolen socks and I crept down the ladder to the main room of our little house on the edge of Mesic, our village near the harvest fields. Tonight we prepared for harvest and acte d’elecció, when I would become a dona, a wife. My name is Lycia Monglave, I am fourteen cycles old and I am the caçador, hunter, of our family.
Papa was in the kitchen, frying fat sausages over the fire, mulled cider was already warmed and waiting for me on the table. The small living space of our cúpula was nice and toasty, taking the chill from my bones. Beside his chair were the soft white leather boots Papa had cobbled for me and the delicate embroidery of my choosing night gown. It was soft ivory with delicate lace snowflakes in the colors of Eldorran moons, pale blues, lavenders, and silver .Of all of the men in the village, Papa was the best sastre; all of his embroidery and stitching were beautiful. He was also a very good cook, creating the most delicious meals for us. As I came across the room, Papa looked at me with those shining bright eyes and smiled.
“Good Dayfall, Lycia.” He said in his cheerful chipper voice. Today, Papa was Papa again. It was hard to tell which Papa I would awake to each dayfall. Since the beasties had taken Mama he was moody and unpredictable. Some nights, I would awake to find him sitting near the hearth, his silver eyes filled with tears as he mooned over Mama. Some nights, he would not even bother getting out of bed at all, ignoring Lua and little Wilkie and keeping me from going out hunting.
Other nights, he would be like this, my Papa with his smiling eyes. On nights like this I would return from the outlands to find him with the other men of the village weaving baskets or doing the wash on the banks of the lavender spring that rushed past the village. Nights like this were becoming more frequent as the pain of his losing Mama was becoming more bearable, not just for him but for us all.
“Good day fall, Papa.” I said and sat to drink my cider. It was warm and rich and tasted of fresh hehku berries. As we sat in silence, the smells of sausage and cider filling our home. Outside the moons were rising and off in the distance we could hear the faint cries of the beasties, those who hadn’t returned to their warrens before the glow of the moons caught them. I watched the pained expression on Papa’s face and realize he looked older than his years. His silver white hair had dulled, the sheen of his skin had begun to ashen, only slightly and the sparkle in his brilliant eyes was fading. I watched as his handsome face tensed then relaxed.
“Papa,” I mumbled and he looked at me as if he had just realized I was sitting with him.
“I am sorry. That was near the village, they are already coming closer. You will not stay out long, will you Lycia? “I gave his hand a pat of reassurance. The beasties always ventured closer to the village at the times of the Soltaia. I understood his fear, I did not share it. I could not, I would not be able to go out into the night to hunt for food and hides so that we could survive.
“I am just going to prepare the traps and I will be back before the moons are high. And I will mark them.” I began to eat my sausages and drinking my cider before they cooled. He gave me a tight smile and I knew what he was thinking. We lost Mama during the Soltaia harvest a full cycle ago. The snows had come early making it difficult to see the traps that she had set in the outlands. She had stepped on one and was waiting for help to arrive when the beasties found her. I understood that Papa was worried, but Soltaia was the only time the mererabits transverse from the north lands to the lands beyond the lavender lake. To have those pelts is what kept us leysi and made it possible for me to not have to go out as often as the others.
Soltaia was also the time when the suns and moons rose and set at the same time. It was the time when we lost the most villagers because the beasties would be out both night and day. There was no day fall to protect us, the rays from the seven moons would be dulled allowing them more movement, more freedom in our fields. We lost many during the Soltaia and not just hunters. Sometimes those pink skinned devils would make their way into a cúpula. Once they had gotten into the cúpula of a family who’s Dona had gone out to hunt. It had taken all of the children and the marit before she returned and killed it.
That had been the saddest harvest the village had ever seen and that was why the cúpulas now circled the square and all entrance doors faced the square. The cúpulas had no windows that faced away from the village and were built close enough that the possibility of a beastie sneaking between them was impossible. We had not had another beastie in the village since this had been done.
Since Mama had been lost, I was the only hunter we had until Lua was of age, and that was many cycles from now. Hunters were trained starting their ninth cycle but marits trained from three. Soon , Papa would begin teaching Wilkie his duties as a future marit. Any Dona would be lucky to have a marit like Wilkie if he was half at skilled and as beautiful as Papa was. Even though it had only been one cycle, there had been talk in the village by many of the Dona to take Papa as a marit, once he was over his sorrow of losing Mama. And since I was at the age of choosing my own marit, Papa would be alone soon with two little ones to care for. He needed a new Dona to hunt and protect him and the wee ones.
Even with the strain of losing Mama and caring for the family on his own, Papa was still a young man of only thirty two cycles. He still garnered giggles and whispers from the donas in the village square whenever he went out. Papa was not a tall man, but he was a lovely man, with skin the color or stardust and eyes like the western lavender moons. The most wondrous thing about Papa was his smile, blinding and bright. When he smiled at you, it was if the heavens opened just for you. Yes, Papa was a lovely man and he world make any dona a very good marit. Mama had been the envy of many when she and Papa had chosen each other during their first acte d’elecció. They had been a striking duo, well matched and so in love.
I had been gifted with Papa’s silver eyes and silken silver white hair, but I was taller than the girls my age, with Mama’s curves. I had developed strong legs and arms from many hours spent hunting in the outlands. I was also going to have my pick of the young men in the village; I had seen the looks when I went to fetch water from the well. They would puff up their chests and smile and wave. They would whisper and chuckle as I passed in the square. I must admit, there were many handsome men of my age, but only one held my heart.
My beautiful Kurt.
He was so delicate with soft blue eyes and pale yellow hair that shone golden in the moonlight, his skin was silken beneath my fingertips and he had the softest lips to ever touch mine. He would wait for me when I returned from my hunts, sitting on the steps to my cúpula with a cup of hot mulled cider and he would rub my feet. Kurt would often come to care for the little ones in the fest nights after Mama was taken, cooking meals and preparing my bath from those first nights I would go out alone. I would come home covered in blood and filth with those paltry weaslets, Kurt was always there to help me peel the heavy furs from my shivering frame and wash my hair until it glowed. He had been sent from the heavens on those first nights. That’s why he was already my chosen one.
Up in the loft, I could hear Wilkie crying as he woke. A fussy boy, he never ventured from the comfort of the loft alone. Sighing, Papa rose to go fetch him and Lua for their meal of sausages, steamed milk and warm porridge. He would take them into the small koupelna for their baths afterward, then they would go out into the village square with the other fathers and children. They would be guarded by the soldiers who stood watch from the high towers that looked over the entire village. Before that, I went in to clean up and prepare for the night ahead. If I were to keep my word to Papa I had to get moving.
As usually, I pulled the heavy red mererabit fur over my jumper, and plaited my silver white mane to keep it out of my eyes. I washed my face and brushed my teeth to remove the smell of the sausages and cider before returning to the outer space of our living area.
Papa, Lua and Wilkie were at the table now. Papa was trying to feed Wilkie who sat in a beautifully carved highchair Mama had made when she was heavy with me. It had been mine, then Lau’s now it was Wilkie’s. The beautiful white Birchwood was delicately decorated but still fit the girls of the family well. Wilkie, being Wilkie, had more porridge on his face and jumper than he ever actually ate.
“Come now, eat little pup.” Papa coaxed, but Wilkie preferred playing in his food to eating it.
Beside him, Lua sat with her brow furrowed and her sharp pale blue eyes focused as she concentrated on getting the heaping spoonful of porridge into her mouth instead of her lap. At five cycles old, she had another four cycles to wait before she could be trained as a caçador, but she was already eager and becoming skilled with a knife. Suddenly, I was overwhelmed with sadness as I watched them. Soon, I would have a cúpula of my own with my own marit and pups. The thought made my heart hurt.
I left them to their ritual, pulling my boots on before leaving the warmth of the cúpula. My traps had been cleaned and oiled and hung besides the front door and waited for me now. I stared up into the dull dusky sky at the seven moons as they rose over the western hills, then to the south where the suns were slowly fading but still hung in the sky like great orange balls. One of the suns was three times the size of the largest of the moons, making their rays that much deadlier. It had already begun; tomorrow they would remain high matching the moons, each cancelling the effects of the other. I would make fast work of checking my traps and returning to my cúpula and the warmth of the hearth. Thankfully, Papa had done the wash the night before; he would have no reason to leave the safety of the village square.
I looked around the square and saw that other caçadors were leaving their cúpula’s as well. Some looked at me and waved greetings, some did not. Some had ill feelings toward me because of my love of Kurt and his for me; Kurt was mine, body and soul, and I his. I shook my head, clearing my thoughts as I tucked a blade into my boot, another into the back of my jumper beneath my heavy fur, but accessible if needed. One thing Mama had always taught me was to be prepared for anything.
We gathered our things and filed past the sentries that guarded the only entrance and exit to the village. During the sunlight, the sentries were replaced by a gate carved from the same moonstone as the cupulas.
Like the light of the moons, moonstone was intolerable to the beasties. There were no tools that they possessed that could as much as scratch the stone. It had been a perfect solution to the sunlight raids of the beasties, but that was long before I was born.
As usual, they checked out faces and names as we filed into the outlands, each moving in different directions. Most of those in white moved south to the already snowy hills beneath the silver moons, where the foxens were plentiful. Those in brown went east beneath the blue moons, hunters of the felcks and bison, the yellow clad went north to the shores of the lavender waters of the sea that was home to the sliver and tumtum fish. The yellow of their cloaks blended into the high thistle weed that lines the shores. I pulled my heavy fur lined hood over my head to travel west, through the barrens and the forests that housed the warrens of the beasties, but they were the most fertile grounds of the mererabits. I hunted alone.
As I trekked through the crisp frozen grass setting my traps, I thought of Kurt. He had not been in the square that night, which was not unexpected. He had gone on and on the night before about his suit for the acte d’elecció. He and Papa had worked so hard on the colors matching and the snowflake pattern that Papa had created for my gown. He was going to braid his hair to match mine and he had prepared already a special garland of pink and yellow flowers to present to me when he was chosen. Pink and yellow were my favorite colors and he said they made the silver in my eyes glow. Kurt was a full cycle older than I and this was his second acte d’elecció. He had been chosen last cycle, by four different donas. He had not chosen any of them in return, instead he waited for me. My soon to be marit, my beautiful delicate Kurt. Hopefully Papa would be chosen by a new dona tomorrow night as well. He did not know that I had seen him many nights with Susi, the butcher. She was a beautiful dona with bright red hair and she always made sure Papa had extra cuts of meat. They would steal glances at each other in the village square when they thought no eyes were upon them. She would be a great dona for my Papa and a good provider for the little ones.
I climbed my way up the ridge toward the higher ground following the path the mererabits would follow across the harvest fields and through the woods, pausing to look down over the village. From where I stood, the cúpulas looked like a circle of perfectly sculpted balls of snow, two dozen side by side linked by tiny underground walkways. At the back of the circle was the largest cúpula, the meeting hall that was being prepared for the choosing ceremony. I could see the marits decorating the façade with the bright pink caleda flowers, the spicy fragrance would fill the square my dayfall tomorrow. Though pretty to look at, the flowers were also used to deter the beasties. Something about the smell dissuaded them. Behind every few yards there were watch towers where sentries stood watch. The soft lights from the towers would sweep the harvest plains beyond the village, watching for beasties in search of entry. By next dayfall, those sentries would be on high alert, watching and waiting.
I wandered beyond the ridge to the low country, the valley in the forest where the beasties had their warrens. As quietly as possible I began setting the traps, moving smoothly and on silent feet as I dug into the icy earth. I needed to spike the traps down so that they would not dislodge once it was sprung. The first cycle of hunting, I had lost more traps than captured mererabits because I’d failed to spike them properly.
I was lost in thought as I clipped a bright red strip of leather to mark my trap’s location, when I hear it. It was the soft pattering of footsteps. At first, I thought it to be a mererabit, but these steps were made by a solitary creature. Mererabits were average sized creatures, larger than the foxen but much smaller than the bison and felcks. I could carry only two at a time, which is why I set traps. I set traps throughout the forest and world return the next night with a sleigh to bring the carcasses back to the village where they would be rendered and skinned. The pelts and meat would be traded with the other families, as was our way. We traded with the farmers for fruits and vegs, the other hunters for meat and fish, the weavers, the lumberers. It was our way and it has worked from hundreds of cycles.
The creature making those noises was much, much larger. I pulled my hood back so that I could better hear, the lining of the fur muting the footfalls on the frozen ground. Three or four tree lengths away, I saw it moving slowly, but coming closer. It was taller than any man I had ever seen, it was lean and moved as a predator does, its nose high in the air as it sniffed. It wore dark, heavy furs, protecting its delicate pink skin from the low hanging moon, its dark piercing eyes locking with mine and I froze.
My heart thudded against my ribs, loud enough for me to hear. I wondered if he could hear it as well. It must have, because it moved closer, and took a step back right onto the trap I had just set. I covered my mouth with my hand as pain cut through me like a knife and down I went, hitting the frozen ground with a bones rattling thud. The snap of the closing trap was tiny but the beasties have acute hearing and he was moving toward me, lopping with long easy strides between the trees coming closer.
It was over me in a split second, its hooded face hidden as it stood blocking out the moon. Slowly, it pushed the heavy hood off back, but not completely off of its head so that I could see his face. Not many villagers had ever really seen one in person, not many that had lived to tell about it. There were sightings of shadows and the sounds of them whispering as they moved on the outskirts of the village. Those soft hushed clicks and whistles they used when hunting. We heard the howls when one was caught out in the light of the moons unprotected.
I reached for the blade I had tucked into the back of my jumper with shaky hands as it knelt beside me. It wore a heavy leather hooded cloak over a dark pants heavy boots. His hands had been covered in thick black gloves that protected them from the rays of the moon that burned and blistered their skin. The face of the beastie was worse than I imagined. It was a male, I assumed but his features was harder than any male in my village. Not soft and delicate like my beautiful Kurt or Papa. It had a strong jaw, with sickening white teeth that were even and gave it’s already horrid face a more sinister look. Its eyes were of a black that I had never witnessed and its skin wasn’t pink at all, it was more the color of a tanned animal hide.
“Well,” it said in a voice much too deep and harsh to be a man’s. “Look like you’ve been caught in your own trap. Just like the last one. What am I to do with you little one?”
I swung my blade at some area beneath the hood and he easily avoided it, laughing a deep throaty sound that seemed to rumble from deep down in his belly. He gripped my wrist and pulled the blade from my fingers and stared at it in amusement. The blade fit into his hand as if it were a splinter, tiny and lost in his massive fist. He tossed it aside and stared at me for a long time, his eyes narrowing as he stared at me.
“You are a pretty little one aren’t you?” He ran his large thick fingers over my hair, holding it up to the light and I struggled to free myself from him. He only held me tighter, his thin lips tightening in frustration or excitement, I was not sure which.
“This mane will fetch a pretty price; you will feed me for a quarter cycle.” He said. “I suppose you never thought your night would end like this, did you, pretty little Mesic? Silent? No screams? No pleas for mercy? Let us see the rest of you then.” He said and I felt the knots in my stomach twist tighter. I slapped at his hands as he reached for the collar of my jumper, tugging at it. I clawed at his face until he had no chose but to fight back. He slapped me hard across the cheek and I could taste blood in my mouth, but I would not give up.
He fought with me, finally managing to rip the jumper and fur from my body. Tossing them aside, he exposed my bare flesh to the light of the moon. I had already flowered as a dona, my body ready to bear a child. He stared at me, before reaching to touch my exposed breast, and I slapped his hand away, scratching and growling as I fought off his disgusting touch. My body was not his to molest, my body was to only be touched by Kurt, my marit.
“I knew you had fight in you. I like that, I may just keep you as a pet for a while.” He said and stroked my arm. With my free leg, I kicked at him, hoping to hit his male parts, if he had any. I missed and he laughed in quiet amusement.
Shaking his head, he grabbed my neck, pushing on my throat until I could no longer breathe, with the other massive hand he released the trap and lifted me as if I were a sack of feathers. He held me at arm’s length, my feet dangling in midair as he held me in the moonlight, his monstrous face twisted in confusion.
“Still no cries? Do you not know that you will die soon, little one?” He asked, bringing my face close to his, but holding my arms tight to my sides. I was bare, cold and unable to reach the blade that was in my boot. “You are a brave one.” He looked down at my leg, the one he’d released from the trap and stared at the pristine white of my fur lined boot and intact skin. “Why isn’t your leg broken?” He asked, more to himself than to me.
The moons of Eldorra have different effects on the people of my village. The silvery moons in the south gave us an unparalleled strength. The sick and injured would travel to the south and lay naked in the moon’s glow to heal. The blue moons of the west were rejuvenating, soothing and promoted fertility. At the end of the Soltaia, the new couples would journey to the cottages of the west and spend their choosing night. It is the place donas go to ensure that they are full with child during the snows. The lavender moons did something different altogether that is why I am the only one to hunt these fields, it is the reason I wear such a heavy hooded fur and jumper.
I could feel the glow of the lavender moon on my skin and a smile began at the corners of my mouth. I tossed my head back as the transformation began, I could feel the muzzle pushing out, elongating my mouth and teeth. The silver white fur started on my belly and face as it always did, and I began to laugh a deep hallow laugh as I stared into widening eyes of the beastie.
“Because I am not the one who is to die.” I said. He released me and turned to run, but it was much, much too late. I landed on all fours, growling as I gave chase through the frozen waste lands of the barrens. This is why I wear a red fur in the stark barrens of the outlands a bright beacon in a colorless landscape.The rise of the moon isn’t the only reason the beasties hide at dayfall.

My name is Lycia Monglave, I am fourteen cycles old and I am a caçador.

The Monarch’s Downfall- A Kafkaesque Fairy Tale

butterfly_skulls_by_Gsaw

Mean girls are mean girls where ever you go and Stephanie Monarch was the reigning Queen bee of Dalewood High. She was tall and thin, with thick auburn hair and emerald eyes and a tongue as sharp as a knife. She ruled with an iron fist and all who crossed her were crushed under the weight of her popularity and complete lack of sympathy for anyone other than herself. Spoiled since birth by a rich father and an accommodating mother, she felt the world should worship her, fear was just as acceptable.
By the time Stephanie, and it was always Stephanie, never Stef, was 10 years old, she had managed to get every nanny ever hired to care for her, twenty-seven in all, fired.
“One day,” one of the last nannies had informed the Monarch’s as she packed her bags “One day you’ll wake up and see what kind of monster that kid is.” Stephanie had simply smiled her beguiling and truly innocent smile and her parents had the woman escorted off of their property. No other nanny or housekeeper would work for them after hearing the stories of the red headed terror.
At twelve, she’d had a piano teacher fired because the woman refused to give her Persian cat to Stephanie who wanted the cat with the soft blue grey fur. She’d repeatedly asked for the cat and had even gone so far as to accuse the woman of striking her.
When she was fifteen, Stephanie decided that she wanted to be a cheerleader. It was only fitting that she was Captain, even if they already had a captain. Margo Newman was a five foot two ninety-eight pound ball of pep who had taken dance and gymnastics from the age of four. She was a dynamo and had managed to take their team to National Championships twice and had gotten a full scholarship to University of Louisville during her tenure. During the first practice her senior year, Margo had been injured when she slipped on a before unseen wet spot on the gym floor and breaking her leg in three places and fracturing her skull.
The injury was devastating. Three months, three metal pins and two surgeries later, Margo still walked with a limp and could no longer dance or tumble as she once had. She suffered from dizzy spells and had trouble with depth perception. The doctors didn’t know if the damage was permanent, but she would need therapy for months. She had to forfeit her scholarship and ended up living with her parents for three years before she finally moved away for college. Everyone knew that Stephanie was responsible. No one could prove it and they were too afraid to even try.
During her senior year as Queen bee a new insect moved into her line of fire. The pixie like new student Gypsy Rocque or The Roach, as Stephanie preferred. The Roach had come into Stephanie’s crosshairs during homecoming the year Stephanie, now a senior was the only choice for Queen. She would be voted Queen and her perfect king would be Todd Marks. Todd was tall, dark haired with deep blue eyes and broad shoulders and mowed lawns in town for extra money. During the warm month you could see grown women watching a shirtless Todd as he worked shirtless in the hot sun. He was smart and funny and Stephanie had let it be known that she had designs on him, which meant hands off.
The only problem with that was the fact that Todd only had eyes for the petite and darkly exotic Gypsy Rocque which baffled Stephanie. Gypsy was short with big brown eyes and thick dark hair that always seemed to be tousled and unkempt. She wore jeans and vintage t-shirts, converse sneakers and was always covered in paint or charcoal. She spoke in a deep raspy voice and had a tattoo on her inner wrist of a moth. Gypsy was quickly becoming the Glenda the Good to her Wicked Witch of the West and in Stephanie Monarch style she planned on taking the little roach down.
Her plan to eliminate Gypsy did not go as she had planned and if the results of eliminating Margo had been devastating, her plot against Gypsy was the last straw. Homecoming was always a hug deal in Dalewood full of pomp and pageantry a full weekend of activity. There was the presentation of the court to the student body in the auditorium of Friday afternoon, then the parade on Saturday that led to the big game and a dance that night where the winning couple would be crowned.
Stephanie’s plan was put into action on Friday afternoon. Alphabetically, Stephanie Monarch was introduced before Gypsy Rocque and had a perfect view as her plan went into action. All it took was two well-timed buckets and a credit card to execute. She watched as the elfin Gypsy was introduced to the clamoring crowd, they screamed and stood and whistled as she shyly waved to them from the stage. And just when the noise hit its crescendo and Gypsy made her way center stage it happened.
What looked like millions of cockroaches descended upon the girl in a squirming waterfall. The sight was terrifying and the smell was even worse. They were in her hair and under her clothes, Gypsy screeched as they bit her face and neck. She gasped for air, her lungs tight as she turned to look at Todd who waited in the wings. He ran to her just as the worse of it happened Gypsy fell backwards off of the stage to the orchestra pit seven feet below.
Crowds rushed forward to assist her, someone yelled to call for help as chaos erupted in the auditorium. Todd raced to the edge of the stage to see an bleeding and broken Gypsy, her right arm hanging at a bizarre angle, her face and neck swelling as her breathing came in in strained bursts.” She needs an Epi Pen,” Todd was yelling as the crowd lifted the lifeless girl.
Stephanie Monarch didn’t hear the rest; she was standing center stage, laughing hysterically.
“You think this is funny? She’s allergic to cockroaches, she could die and her arm is broken. Don’t you feel – anything?” Todd asked and Stephanie’s response was to flip her hair and smirk.
“One day,” he said “your outside will reflect just how much of a monster you are.”

Retribution for such an act was swift and devastating, and Stephanie Monarch never saw it coming.

By the end of the day, no one would even look at the demon queen of Dalewood High. She was no longer feared, but openly scorned by her classmates. They sneered as she sauntered down the halls her head held high, accusing her in loud whispers of nearly killing the nicest, sweetest girl in the entire town. What had Gypsy ever done to her to deserve such treatment? Who did Stephanie Monarch think she was? She should go to prison. But as with most of her machinations, no one could prove that she had done such a ghastly thing. And without proof nothing could be done. Sure she had been the only one to laugh at Gypsy’s misfortune but there is no crime in being an evil bitch.
It started as a blemish, a small red mark on her left shoulder that she stared at that night in the bedroom mirror. If she hadn’t known better, she would have thought it were a freckle. Sighing, she ignored it as she hopped into a nice steaming bubble bath. Tomorrow would be a new day and Queen Stephanie would be back on her slightly tarnished throne.
She awoke in an ice cold bath, her eyes itchy and the bubbles long faded. She must have dozed off, which wasn’t unusual. She had often drifted off in the bath, but this sleep was different. Groggily and slightly pained, she pulled herself out of the icy water to find that her muscles her. She looked down to see that her arms and legs were now covered in a fine dusting of small red pimples. She frowned as they began to itch and some even hurt a little. Shaking her head, she assumed it must be an allergy to the perfume in her bath oil. It would be ironic, she thought.
Ignoring the pain and the growing itch all she could think about was her bed and the fact that she wanted to go back to sleep. She found it hard to cross the room, her legs stiff every move she made felt as if the muscle would burst through the skin. She took slow pained steps, the feel of the carpet under her bare feet was excruciating and she had no idea that as she moved, her flowing cascade of auburn hair was falling out in thick clumps. By the time she finally managed to lay naked and wet across the bed, she was nearly bald, her scalp raw and red. The feel of the cool pillow on her swollen face was soothing and the itching in her eyes intensified. It felt as if stray lashes had embedded in her lids and she could not dislodge them. All she did manage to do, without her knowledge, was leave a trail of jagged scratches on her once perfect face. The face that had been in turns angelic and demonic was a red swollen, pulpy mess.
She dreamt that these pimples had grown to be the size of eggs, red and painful beneath her smooth alabaster skin. That they hurt as they finally broke through her irritated skin and oozed blood and pus onto her designer sheets. The pain in her head and face were excruciating as the bumps continued to grow and burst, grow and burst the cycle continuing until sometime around dawn. That was when the cramps in her arms and legs began to intensify, the only relief she could find was to roll into a ball and weep. By then she’d managed to find comfort in a dark cocoon of warmth. Her mother must have heard her nightmare and came to cover her. Relaxing in this dark warm softness, she was finally able to relax into a dream free and relatively painless sleep.
Mrs. Monarch sat at the breakfast table, pouring her second cup of decaf when she looked at the clock. The Homecoming parade was in a couple of hours and they had yet to see their daughter. She mentioned this to her husband who looked at his watch in surprise.
Stephanie had been on the Homecoming court since her freshman year and every year she was dressed and ready by now. She should have been in the driveway with her friends as they decorated the convertible BMW that would roll through the town square with Stephanie perched prettily upon the back seat.
She should have already demanded that her escort, always the best looking boy in her grade, was waiting for her with a corsage and tie the exact shade of her suit. Her hair would be pulled back and a lovely hat specially made to rival those at the Kentucky Derby perched on her head. Yet, there was no sign of the future queen.
“Do you think she could be ill? Wasn’t there an incident at the school yesterday with that poor little Rocque girl?” Mrs. Monarch asked. They stared at each other for a second before they rose to check on their perfect princess.
A knock on her bedroom door yielded no response and Mrs. Monarch began to seriously worry. Slowly, they opened the door and saw that the drapes were closed. Squinting into the darkness, the sound of something moving, fluttering made their hearts race. Something large, near the bed moved and the noise, that fluttering started again. Anxiously, Mr. Monarch reached for the light switch casting an unnatural light across the pink and yellow room.
Mrs. Monarch looked at the scene in confusion, one hand clutching her husband’s arm as the scream bubbled up from deep within her stayed trapped in her throat. There was a trail from the bathroom to the bed of blood and what looked like sheathes of skin. There were thick coils of auburn hair and the smell of rot and death filled the room. Covering his mouth with his hand, Mr. Monarch stared at what he could only assume was an opened cocoon on his daughters bed. Confused and terrified he too fell to his knees at the sight of the monster in the corner. It was just over five feet tall with a wing span of double that, its buggy eyes staring at them, the body twisted into some sort of hybrid, but the face, the face beneath the bald pate was unmistakable and the effect was monstrous. It stood on spindly legs, cowering in the corner, near a mirror; the mouth moved exposing a sickeningly toothless maw and Mrs. Monarch did manage a scream at the grotesqueness of it all. The bright orange wings, the black fur covering what was an amalgam, of girl and insect. Her eyes had moved to the sides of her head making it disconcerting to look her in the eye. It was a visceral and disturbing site and all they could do was scream in abject horror.
Stephanie Monarch had become a butterfly.

Welcome D.B. Seiders!!!

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Thanks for having me on your blog today, Tanisha! You inspired me with your great idea for taking a famous movie/book line and using it as a springboard to write something in a different genre. You also inspired me with Serenity (for any new visitors to Tanisha’s blog, definitely check out this dark and sensual tale – you won’t regret it!).

For my opening, I chose a famous line from the 1987 thriller flick, Fatal Attraction, and turned it into an urban fantasy short featuring an everyman hero, the Grim Reaper, and an element from one of my recurring nightmares – a GPS that really talks back.

I hope you enjoy!

***

Reprieve

“I’m not going to be ignored, Dan.”

“What?” he muttered, certain he’d misheard. Between the radio blaring whatever the hell passed for music these days, the jackass behind him laying on the horn, and his damned cell phone, it was a wonder he could hear his GPS at all.

“Dan?” Man, all those years of whisky and cigarettes sure had turned his ma’s voice into a metallic rasp that might be mistaken for a robot.

“Yeah, hold on a sec, I’m not ignoring you. I just missed my turn,” he said, executing a one handed sharp left so he could plow his way into the next lane while giving the finger to the horn-blaring idiot behind him. Take that, jerkoff. UPS truck, 1, Mercedes, 0.

“Dan, you still there?”

“I said I just missed my turn. Look, I don’t need you to bring me dinner, okay. I’ll pick something up after my shift.” He shouldn’t argue. If he gave in, she’d get off the damned phone so he could drive already. And he really needed both hands to cross another couple lanes of traffic. Besides, whatever pot roast nightmare his mother came up with couldn’t be worse than the diner. More importantly, though, she was at the diner. He smiled, thinking about the other reason he enjoyed his favorite neighborhood haunt, but it turned to a grimace as he pondered the near miss with his ticker last month…

“You need to eat so’s you can get your strength back.”

He barely stifled the curse after slamming on his brakes to keep from running down the cab in front of him. I gotta get a Bluetooth. “Listen, Ma, let me call you back. I’m gonna have to hang a u-ey.” And dodge a half a dozen potholes and a few pieces of concrete when one of the empty buildings littering this part of the city finally keels over. He didn’t wait for her reply before ending the call and tossing his phone back into the cup holder.

“Recalculating.”

“Yeah, yeah,” he muttered. “Quit your bitchin’. I’m on it.”

“There’s no need for profanity, Dan. If you stop ignoring me, I will take you where you need to go.”

He froze, chest squeezed in a vice grip as icy pinpricks of fear shot up from the base of his spine. The familiar female voice from his Garmin remained devoid of inflection, cold and electronic. But the words…what the hell? Was he having a stroke now? He knew his heart was about to explode.

“You’re holding up traffic, Dan. Continue point five miles on Main Street, then turn left onto 5th Avenue South.”

Operating on autopilot, he drove until he hit a red light and then paused to turn down the radio with a shaking hand.

“Remember to breathe, Dan.”

Oh, right. He let out the breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding, and after a couple of seconds, let out a shaky laugh. “Okay, I get it. I’m on some reality show, right – Joke’s on the average Joe? Where’s the hidden camera, Siri?”

“I am serious, Dan. And don’t call me Siri. I’m Jill.”

“Yeah, right.”

“The light is green, Dan. Please drive point one miles and turn left onto 5th Avenue South.”

“Holy shit–”

“Please drive, Dan.”

He drove on and took the left turn, looking for a place to park the truck so he could get the hell out. Rush hour downtown made it impossible. He wondered how much crap he’d get for leaving it on the street. A quick glance in the mirror did nothing to calm his nerves. The guy staring back at him was bug eyed, pouring sweat, and more than a little green around the gills.

“Don’t worry, Dan. Everything will be fine. Please turn into the alley on the right.”

“Christ, everything will be fine? I’m having a conversation with my GPS and pulling my big ass truck into a blind alley, and you’re telling me everything will be fine?”

“Arriving at destination. Good luck, Dan.”

“What destination?” he yelled, unleashing his fear and anger on the dashboard with his fists. “There’s nothing here but dumpsters, hobo piss, and maybe some deranged crack addicts!”

No response came from the box on his dashboard. The twinge in his chest forced him back to stillness. He put the truck in park, then rested his head on his forearms and took a few deep, cleansing breaths. Unfortunately, things didn’t look better when he lifted his head and opened his eyes. Same dingy brick walls and pockmarked asphalt, same reeking garbage and urban decay, washed up and wasting away, kind of like the guy staring back at him from the rearview mirror.

He ran a hand through his hair and gave his head a good shake. Sighing, he shifted to reverse and started backing the hell out of the alley so he could go and get his head checked. When he turned around to look out the rear window, the vice squeezing his heart tightened and he slammed on the brakes, cursing.

He shifted into park, hopped out of the truck, and stomped toward the guy blocking the alley. “What the hell, man? I almost ran you over!”

The corners of the man’s mouth curled into a smirk, though he made a polite, old fashioned bow and removed his hat. His three-piece indigo suit screamed mob boss and stood out against the grim backdrop. Grey around the temples, but not many lines on his face, the guy could’ve been in his thirties or his fifties. His cold gaze held a glint of amusement, like he was enjoying a private joke at Dan’s expense.

Well, screw that. With the all the other crazy shit going on, no way was he going to let some big shot in a fancy suit laugh at him.
“Good afternoon, Mr. Gallacher. Thank you for coming.”
Dan stopped a few feet away from the stranger, suppressing a shiver. He’d admit to being scared shitless, male pride notwithstanding, but the temperature seemed to have dropped at least ten degrees since he got out of the truck. The Suit stood still, hands behind his back and head tilted to one side, waiting.
After a few moments, Dan managed to force words past the lump of dread in his throat. “W-who are you and how the hell did you do that thing with my GPS?”
The Suit inclined his head and said, “Forgive me, Mr. Gallacher, for a bit of indulgence. I so rarely get out as of late, you see, at least outside of official business. So many more cases these days.” He sighed and looked heavenward with a small shake of his head before returning his gaze to Dan. “Besides, my associates were in the vicinity and offered to help.”

Dan spun around as the sound of footfalls echoed through the alley. Two gangly youths approached him, dressed identically from their skinny jeans to graphic tees emblazoned with ‘I keep pressing esc but I’m still here’ logos, with unkempt dishwater blond hair and both busily texting on identical smart phones. They stopped at a respectable distance, but it didn’t escape Dan’s notice that he was now surrounded and would have to either go through the Emo twins to get back to his truck or The Suit to get out of the alley.

One of the boys paused long enough to look up and flash Dan a toothy grin before saying, “You know, if you play your cards right, we can get Jill and Siri to talk dirty for you.”

“That will do, gentlemen,” The Suit said, shifting Dan’s focus back to the obvious honcho. “You’ll have to excuse Boyce and Boice for their youthful…boorishness. While unrefined, fledgling demons are understandably rather more in tune with technology. As for who I am, I am a client, or at least I hope to be. I find myself in need of a courier.”

Demons? The guy must be delusional. “You got a strange way of scheduling a delivery, mister.” Dan said, with all the bravado he could muster. It wasn’t much.

“Oh, I’m not expecting a delivery. Not this time. I actually have an item for pick up.”

“So go online and schedule with corporate.”

The Suit’s grin widened. “Oh, but this pick up is of particular importance, Mr. Gallacher. Very delicate situation, you see, and discretion is key.”

Dan almost took a step back, but then remembered the first rule he’d learned on the streets–show no fear. He squared his shoulders, ignoring the twinge in his chest and the tingling sensation in his left arm. “Whoa, there. I don’t know what kind of operation you’re running here, but I don’t freelance or illegal shit no matter who’s paying.”

“No need to fret. I’m not asking you to violate any of your laws.”

“My laws? Who the hell are you, CIA? NSA?”

The Suit threw back his head and laughed. The asshole actually doubled over, laughing until tears streamed down his face. “Oh my,” he said between gasps for breath. “NSA? Now there’s one I haven’t heard before. Bravo, my boy, for an original response! I knew you’d be an excellent choice. I always know.”

“Look, I don’t know what kind of game you’re playing, but I want no part of it–”

The Suit grew serious once more, brow furrowed as he pierced Dan with an icy gaze. “Too late for that, Mr. Gallacher. You became a part of it as soon as they wheeled you into the cardiac care unit of St. Josephs.”

The ache in his chest intensified to a crushing weight, bringing him to his knees in a wave of dizziness, nausea, and the certainty of impending doom. The Suit knelt down next to him and placed a heavy palm on his shoulder, and a fresh wave of shivers wracked his body.

Oh God, I’m dying.

“By all rights, you should be dead already, Mr. Gallacher. Forty-five, former chain smoker and habitual greasy spoon patron, you’re lucky I didn’t come calling ten years ago. But, as I mentioned, there are so many more cases these days.”

“No.” It came out as a whisper, powered by a thousand and one regrets and two faint slivers of hope.

“No? Interesting.” The Suit sat back on his haunches, pulled a Smartphone out of his breast pocket, and let his fingers dance across the screen, typing and scrolling, “Let’s see. Ah, here you are. Mr. Daniel Arthur Gallacher: divorced more than ten years and single since, you have one son whom you see maybe twice a year, and you live less than five miles from Mommy… you have a decent job with benefits, but really, anyone could do it. Middle aged with no prospects, you spin your wheels, but where are you going? What could you possibly have to live for?”

Jackson… and… her…

“Ah yes, your estranged son. Not the most original plea for leniency I’ve heard. In fact, children are the most common answer. As for that other reason, well, those come in a close second,” he said with a wink. “But I have to wonder, if dear Jack is so important to you, why haven’t called him since your little episode? Of course, you haven’t made any progress on the other front, either. No, not you, spinning, spinning, spinning. You know, Dan–may I call you Dan?–many men would see your near miss as the proverbial wake up call.”

“Thought,” he paused, gasping for breath as the crushing pressure in his chest intensified. “Thought I was okay. Thought…I had…more time.”

“Don’t we all,” The Suit said, managing to sound rueful as he checked his watch. Then he leveled Dan with his gaze. “Now then, you aren’t a bad person, nor are you a particularly good person. You are, in fact, the very model of an average Joe. Not that it matters, mind you. I’m not known as the great equalizer for nothing.”

“T-thought… you were s-supposed to… show up with a scythe.”

The Suit chuckled. “A scythe? Why that’s positively Medieval. Boyce!”

“Yeah, boss?”

“Remind me to contact PR when I get back to the office. We really need to update our image.”

Boyce rolled his eyes, still managing to text while doing it. “Dude, you been sayin’ that since 1869.”

The Suit glared at Boyce, then turned his attention back to Dan. “We’ll discuss that later, since I don’t think dear Dan can take much more. As I was saying, what you have or haven’t done isn’t particularly important to me. What is important to me, and to you, assuming that you want more time on the hamster wheel, is that my package makes it safely to its destination. What do you say?”

“W-what’s…the…job?”

Released from the crushing weight and agony, Dan fell face down onto the rough pavement. Not that he was complaining. Asphalt rash seemed like a tickle compared to his former anguish. After sucking back a few deep breaths, he heaved himself off the ground and stood face to face with Death.

Death smiled and pulled a small package from his pocket, the fine white gloss finish of the high wall box shimmering in the ambient light. Dan accepted with trembling fingers, relieved when the damned thing didn’t burn him. The textured surface of the box was bare aside from a small silver bow adorning one corner.

“What is it?” The words fell out of his mouth before he could ponder the wisdom of questioning the thing standing before him.

Death cocked his head to one side and seemed to consider for a moment. “A fair question, I suppose, and there’s no harm in the telling. The package contains a reprieve, rather like the one I’ve granted you.”

Dan glanced down at the box in disbelief. He wasn’t sure what shocked him more, the idea that he literally held someone’s life in his hands, or the absurd sense of wonder at Death’s generosity. Really? Two in one day? Folks will think you’ve gone soft, buddy.

One of the boys, Boice maybe, snorted, reminding Dan that his thoughts weren’t exactly his own. “Sorry,” he muttered. “This is all a little, uh, you know…”

“Yes,” Death replied, chuckling. “I do know. And just so we’re clear,” he said as the laughter in his tone faded, “I’ve not gone soft. In fact, I’m the original hard-ass, and you’d do well to remember that, buddy.”

Knives of white-hot pain pierced his chest once more, the agony so intense it might have brought him to his knees again had it lasted more than two seconds. Death arched an eyebrow in question. You picking up what I’m putting down, son?

Oh yeah. Point taken.

Clearing his throat, Dan met Death’s gaze and asked, “Where do I take it?”

Death’s smile grew broader, crinkling the corners of his eyes. “Don’t worry. It will take you where it needs to go.”

Dan opened his mouth to ask what the hell that was supposed to mean, but Death cut him off. “Time runs short, Mr. Gallacher, and you’d do well to remember that yours is borrowed. Deliver my package safely and, if I may offer some advice?”

“Yeah?”

“Your life isn’t to be ignored, Dan. Get off the wheel.” Death gave him a polite nod of dismissal and strode past Dan to join his associates. The boys put away their phones and smiled at Dan before turning to follow Death.

He knew he was pushing his luck, but he couldn’t help himself. “One more question, if you don’t mind.”

Death stopped and turned back to face him.

“Why?”

Death looked him over, and then turned once more to resume his walk down the alley. Just before fading into the shadows, Dan heard the cultured voice echo back across the gloom. “I may be a hard-ass, but I’m also a romantic at heart. See you around, Dan.”

***

“Arriving at address 2714, on right.”

Dan waited, heart pounding in nervous anticipation. Jill the GPS didn’t offer any further commentary or instruction. After spending a half an hour driving aimlessly around the city, waiting for inspiration, he finally gave up and drove where his life normally took him after a shift.

So much for getting off the wheel.

Still, he’d sent a text to Jack after grabbing some tickets online for Saturday’s game. To his surprise, Jack replied a few minutes later with an ‘OK.’ It was a start.

After parking the truck at the curb, he took a moment to finger comb his hair and straighten his uniform. Hell, maybe he should have stopped by the apartment and changed? Too late now, borrowed time and all.

He caught sight of the small white package resting on the passenger seat, silver bow glimmering.

I’m not going to be ignored, Dan.

And suddenly, he knew what do.

Grabbing the package, he stepped out of his truck and paused outside the diner, peering through the plate glass windows until he spotted her coming out of the kitchen.

She must have been on her feet all day, judging from her slow shuffle through the crowd while balancing a large tray full of greasy delights. Still, she managed a smile for the family sitting at her table, bending to pinch a small boy on the cheek after she’d delivered the last plate. A few stray blonde locks fell out of her ponytail, caressing one lightly lined cheek.

She wasn’t tall. Soft in the middle, though shapely, what she lacked in bosom she more than made up for with that tight little apple bottom. Still, she wasn’t what you’d call striking. Eyes set a little too close together, and with a bit of a snub nose, she might have been considered cute in the bloom of youth. In middle age, though, she wasn’t beautiful.

Until she smiled–one of those rare, spontaneous, bursts of delight, like finding a dandelion in winter.

He’d seen that smile once, a little over a year ago, when he’d first set foot in the diner, and he’d been a goner ever since.

Time to get off the wheel.

Dan walked in and took his usual place at the counter. One of the other waitresses came and took his order, raising her brows when he told her all he wanted was a salad. He sipped his coffee and reveled in the simple pleasure of watching her.

She turned her gaze in his direction and smiled, one of those smiles, and walked over to stand in front of him. She glanced at her watch and then looked back at him, eyes glinting with mischief. “Running late tonight?”

Dan smiled back. “Yeah, I had an extra delivery today. A special one.”

“Oh?” she replied, absently tucking one of those stray locks behind her ear. “Who was it for?”

“You,” he said, handing her the white box.

She furrowed her brows in confusion, but accepted the box, running her fingers over the embossed surface and examining it before turning her gaze back to him. “What is it?”

“My life,” he said, and waited. Waited for her to laugh, or for a look of wary suspicion to wipe away the joy in her expression, waited for her to walk away. Instead, she examined him through narrowed, but not unfriendly eyes, inviting him to elaborate.

“Look,” he began, “I’m an ordinary guy, divorced with one kid, with an average job, an average life, and nothing special in the way of expectations. Hell, I mostly just go through the motions. But when I come here, and see you? For a few minutes each day, I get a little piece of extraordinary. And let me tell you,” he said, working up the nerve to touch her arm. “Sometimes, a little piece of extraordinary makes all the difference. I, ah, I just wanted you to know that, and to say…thank you.”

She didn’t pull away, but she didn’t speak either. After a few moments of awkward silence, Dan let go of her and looked down at his feet. “So, ah, thanks again…Renee.”

He fumbled for his wallet, plopped a twenty on the table, and then turned to leave. A light hand on his forearm stopped him. Mustering the last of his courage, he looked up to meet her gaze, breathless.

“What’s your name?” she asked.

“Dan. Dan Gallacher.”

“Dan,” she said, then smiled and held out her hand. He accepted it, warm and small in his own. “It’s nice to meet you.”

***

Special thanks to my critique partner, Sophia Jones, for the edit and beta read. If you’d like to learn more about me or my work, feel free to visit my blog or website. You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

But first, go check out Serenity. I’m serious. It’s good stuff!

D.B. Seiders: A Short Bio

I was born and raised in East Tennessee and spent a great deal of my childhood hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains and wading barefoot in creeks, chasing salamanders, fish, and frogs. We camped a lot, and we loved to tell stories while sitting around our campfire.

Those days of frog chasing sparked my interest in biology, which I pursued in college and later in graduate school. I am a working scientist by day, but I never lost my love of sharing stories. I’ve been an avid reader for as long as I can remember and am thrilled to be working as a writer.

I live in Nashville, Tennessee with my husband, two children, two cats, and my very active imagination.

Visit D.B. Sieders at http://www.sieders.com/dbsieders/ or follow her at http://dbsieders.wordpress.com/

Welcome D.T. Krippene !!!

D.T. Krippene

A Fascination with Post Apocalyptic Stories

First, I’d like to thank Tanisha for inviting me to guest blog this week on her site. Whether you write divinely dark romance like Tanisha, or dark dystopian tales like me, Heinlein’s quote relates to us both. If you haven’t read Serenity, her short story posted on this site, be prepared for the forebodingly exotic.
“There is no safety this side of the grave.” Robert A. Heinlein – Stranger in a Strange Land
I read a wide variety of fiction genres, but lately I’ve been revisiting a favorite from my youth, stories of future societies disrupted by natural calamity, or the excesses of mankind. I thank Robert A. Heinlein and H.G. Wells for hooking me into post apocalyptic and dystopian tales, my introduction by way of Heinlein’s “Tunnel in the Sky”. The genre became popular after World War II, with the advent of the nuclear age, but you might find it surprising that it has a long history in literature. From Wikipedia, “Numerous societies, including the Babylonian and Judaic, had produced apocalyptic literature and mythology, which dealt with the end of the world and of human society”. Apparently, we’re fascinated (or scared) of a possible end to human existence, like dinosaurs that disappeared millions of years ago from a one-two punch of cosmic shrapnel and resultant atmospheric degradation. At least that’s the going theory. As humans, we’ve added options to radically change our existence.
“It has become appallingly clear that our technology has surpassed our humanity.” Albert Einstein
As Professor Einstein so eloquently points out, unlike the dinosaurs, we can engineer our own demise. Dystopian settings, whether it’s the classic “1984”, by George Orwell, or the newer “Hunger Games”, by Suzanne Collins, we deal less with the method of man’s ruin, and more with the resultant society created when the dust finally settles (or perhaps, chokes our skies). It’s what draws us in, like mosquitoes to a bug zapper. Characters make a story, and they don’t go quietly in the night, like our oversized, reptilian predecessors.
“Man is the unnatural animal, the rebel child of nature, and more and more does he turn himself against the harsh and fitful hand that reared him.” H.G. Wells – A Modern Utopia
Humankind has a long history of snubbing a nose at the natural order of things and repeat past misdeeds when it comes to social order. The archetypal premise for post-apocalyptic culture is an autocratic regime, a small privileged class, and an oppressed population mired in want.
“As all historians know, the past is a great darkness, and filled with echoes.” ― Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale
The rap sheet of despotic behaviors through the eons is a ponderous tome of darkness. Thankfully, we have slightly higher legacy of overcoming human heinousness. Heroism and love eventually wins the day, though we may have to slog through a maze of atrocity to get there.
Oppression in dystopia doesn’t always manifest with organized tyranny. To paraphrase a line from the first Star Wars movie, “you will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy,” than a surviving populace in which there is no sheriff, and tribal fiefdom exists in a futuristic version of our Wild West days.
“Most post-holocaust novels are little-boy wish fantasies about running amok in
a world without rules. In fact, such lonely ‘heroes’ would vanish like soot after a real apocalypse.” David Brin – The Postman
In the early days of world collapse, Darwin’s theory of natural selection often becomes a dark truth. It takes time to nurture a hero. They arise from the ashes of desperation, flaring the best trait of human spirit … hope and determination.
“There is never a disaster so devastating that a determined person cannot pull something out of the ashes—by risking all that he or she has left…Nothing in the world is more dangerous than a desperate man.” David Brin – The Postman
It’s what we hope for when we read stories of a future gone awry … that point of desperation in which our characters crawl out from a chasm of darkness and into the light.
I’ve just finished a dystopian science fiction that poses a premise that is both enthralling and cautionary at the same time.
A human endogenous retrovirus has wiped out 95% of the human population and rendered survivors unable to bear children. The end of the anthropogenic era is near. Two years after the virus has run its course, a tiny number of women became pregnant … and give birth on the same day. Raised within the strict confines of his religious mother, Ryan Townsend is fed up with the notoriety of his mysterious birth. No one will tell him why the watchful eye of the Directorate monitors his every move. An outcast in his home town, his only desire is to escape to the solitude of recovering woodlands.
It all changes when on a winter hike, he stumbles on a wolf pack about to tear a girl to shreds. Life-hardened and on the run from Australia, trouble follows Penny McGuire wherever she goes and Ryan’s feelings for Penny drag him along for the ride. Ryan struggles to overcome years of repressed angst to save Penny when a militant gang of rovers kidnaps her. His world implodes when he learns that Penny is pregnant.

D.T.Krippene

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Serenity

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He was a constant explorer and that was what brought him to the dingy alley in Chinatown. The smell of old fish and mooshoo pork wafted through the steaming grates in the ground as the late October air, whipped through his expensive Armani trench coat. Being one of the richest men in the country afforded him the luxury of his eccentricities. It also afforded him a degree of anonymity. Never a public figure, media did not hound him, as a matter of fact, not many people knew him as it were. And that’s the way he preferred it.

It was damp, dark, and hard to see, but he didn’t need to see, he knew where he was going in the bleakness of the desolate alley. He found the door, the same hidden door camouflaged to look like the dark worn bricks of the decrepit buildings that lined either side of the alley. He knocked twice, then stepped back and waited. A brick shifted, and then slid open to reveal two piercing black eyes. They peered at him briefly, then the brick moved back into place and the wall opened to reveal a small Asian man with thick glasses wearing a food stained t-shirt, old khaki pants an apron and black bedroom slippers that had seen better days. He waved him in impatiently, before slamming the door.
“Good Evening Mr. Walters. Back so soon?” The old Asian spoke in crisp clear tones, his English tinged with a slightly British accent.

“Mr. Cheng. And please call me Max.” He slipped off his coat and tossed it on a nearby table. The room was warm and decorated in bright floral prints. The furniture was old French Country and smelled of fresh coffee and potpourri. Mr. Cheng motioned for Walters to have a seat and he willingly sat on the plush floral sofa. It was as if he were back in his grandmother’s living room. Everything seemed so pleasant in the windowless room; the mock fireplace glowing orange and casting warmth through the room. Delicate dollies lined the many shelves and tables, pedestals for several dozen brick aback and chotchkeys that Mr. Cheng and his late wife had collected over the years and their extensive travels.
“Tea?” Mr. Cheng offered as he wiped his hands on the already dirty apron.

“No thank you.” Max Walters shifted impatiently. He didn’t fit in this room. He was a tall man, nearly seven feet tall, with coarse jet-black hair that was prematurely graying at the temples. His skin was smooth and tanned and he was in extrodinary physical shape. The startling blue eyes seemed the only semblance of telling his age. They were lively and seemed to dance when he spoke.
“When you called you said that you had something different” Mr. Cheng nodded and smiled, exposing perfect white teeth.

“Yes, yes. Of course.” He motioned again, this time for Max to follow him. They walked out of the room to a narrow hallway, off to the right of the hallway was a bustling restaurant kitchen. Waiters and busboys in crisp white shirts moved back and forth in elegant dance of routine. Mr. Cheng looked inside and shouted something in Cantonese, before leading Max to end of the hall. The further they walked the darker and more claustrophobic the space got. The walls seemed to close in on them, to the point that Max had to turn sideways and nearly shimmy through the narrow space, the ceiling pressing down on the top of his head. Finally, when they reached the end, a door opened and Max entered. Ducking his head as he scuttled past Mr. Cheng, he stepped into the abyss laid out before him, his feet connecting with, what he pictured in his mind to be a dilapidated, wooden staircase. He wasn’t sure, as he had never actually seen the staircase; he could only feel the wrought, exhausted railing that ran the length of the steep decline.
Mr. Cheng followed him down a narrow staircase that creaked under their weight. The darkness surrounding the staircase was ominous, and on several of his midnight treks to this god-forsaken place, Max had felt as if he’d walked right into hell. The first time he’d been led down this path, he had feared for his life, now, it was a routine that he relished. He could feel the excitement whelm in his stomach, as he imagined the various oddities Mr. Cheng and his assistant had collected. As the pale pink light at the end staircase, which began as a tiny point of light spread to expose a entry to a much larger room, he could feel his stomach twisting in nervous knots.

The room smelled of perfume and sweet smelling soaps and flowers. Mr. Cheng called to someone in perfect French, then gave Max a pat on the shoulder, before disappearing back into the darkness. Max sat on one of the many satin draped sofas and looked around. The room was decorated in black and white art deco furniture. There were fluffy white rugs on the floor and elegant paintings on the walls as several young women and men milled around, all in satin pajamas and bedroom slippers. The males all wore simple satin drawn string pajamas bottoms, and the females, the matching tops. They were all young, and beautiful, and physically marred in some way. There were several youth missing limbs, one beautiful young girl with the most delicate blonde hair and large soulful brown eyes. She was lovely and had a gentle way about her. She was affectionately called Angel, as she had large flaps that ran along the underside of her arms and connected to her waist like massive flesh wings. There were the twins, known only as Pisces One and Two, a brother and sister, both with long dark hair and somewhat Asian features, both born with their legs fused together. There were more, maybe a dozen or so, the most extreme was a boy, found the jungles of South America, who had bright red and orange scales that covered his head like fiery plumage and followed the track of his spine to his tailbone. He had bright yellow eyes and spoke in a soft whisper of a voice. They were medical anomalies, and Max found them beautiful. They greeted him with bright smiles and hugs and kisses. Reaching into his pockets, they pulled out treats of candies and little trinkets that he always carried for them.
The person Mr. Cheng had called, Max knew very well. She appeared out of nowhere, it seemed. She was tall, blond, her hair pulled away from her face in a delicate bun. She wore no make up and was the only person, other than Max, completely dressed. She wore he standard uniform of tailored, black tuxedo pants and a crisp white shirt, unbuttoned just enough to expose the curve of her ample bosom.
“Mr. Walters, back so soon?” She smiled as he rose to greet her. She offered her hand and Max gave it a brief shake.
“Selena.”

She nodded and turned on her silver stilettos and Max obediently followed her out of the room down a brightly lit hallway lined with doors. Each door had a name neatly painted in either black or pink lettering, beneath, which was a small shaded window. The walls seemed to vibrate with the sounds of sex, and he could feel himself getting hard at the thought of what was to come. He had been in many of the rooms, and knew of the pleasure that would come from these beautiful special people. They were loving and gentle, and since he had discovered Mr. Cheng and Selena, regular sexual encounters never fulfilled him. He had found it more and more exciting to come to this place, night after night. It had become his home away from home and he found that even here, his depravity was more than he could handle.
Selena paused at a metal door at the very end of the hallway. “This is her.”
There was no name painted on the door, instead of a window like the other doors, her door housed a metal slide large enough for one person to look in. He peered inside and saw a girl sitting at a vanity slowly brushing her shoulder length hair, which was a startling shade of red. Her skin was pale and her bright green eyes seemed to be too large for her face. She turned and looked at Max, a coy smile on her lips. Around her ankle was a shackle, and a heavy chain that was bolted to the wall. The room’s walls were covered in satiny pink padding. It was like looking into a diorama of a doll’s house, with a perfect porcelain doll at its center.
“She’s lovely.” Max whispered, both disgusted and intrigued. “She is not what I expected. When Mr. Cheng spoke of her, he gave me the impression –“

Selena took a key from her pocket. “She is not what she seems, but I assure you Mr. Walters, she is exactly what you requested.” She pushed the door open. Max stood on the threshold, knowing that this was the last chance. This was his last chance to be a just walk away. He could walk out of here, live a full and fulfilling life and never set foot in this place again. He could forget about Mr. Cheng’s menagerie of fantastical creatures and never give the place a second thought. But the moment Selena opened that door; he knew there was no turning back. He was immediately drawn to her. She wasn’t like the others; there was no hint of malformed limbs or even a scar on her that he could see. She was just a pretty girl in a room full of pretty things.
“What’s her name?” He heard himself asking, looking around the room.

“My name is Serenity.” She spoke in a deep, husky voice, which belied her features. Nervously, he glanced at Selena who seemed unfazed by the entire situation.
Max asked, even as he found himself stepping into the powder pink bedroom.
“As I said, she is not what she seems. Serenity is very special. It is not often one comes across one like this.” Selena cleared her throat and when Max looked at her she raised one perfectly arched eyebrow. He nodded, absently reaching into his pocket and withdrawing a large envelope stuffed with cash. Selena took it and began to back out of the door. She paused for a moment, her lineless face creased as she expressed the first hint of emotion he’d ever seen.
“Are you sure this is what you want, Mr. Walters? There are many others here you can try.” He waved her off, his eyes drawn to the girl who continued to brush her hair and sing a pleasant melody. He was transfixed by the dulcet tone of her voice. She turned to look at him, smiling coyly over her shoulder and he moved further into the room. “Very well,” Selena said with a resigned sigh. “As you wish.”
He didn’t even realize that she was gone until her heard the door closed behind him with a slam, the sound of the lock, startling him. He glanced back, just as Selena slid the metal cover over the peephole shut. He was frozen in place, staring at the room. It was a child’s room, complete with stuffed animals on the bed. She stood and came towards him, in her soft pink satin pajamas and pink fluffy slippers.

Sitting on the bed he stared into her eyes and smiled, then motioned for him to have a seat on her animal laden bed. He obliged, never taking his eyes off of her and that beautiful scarlet hair. She was a striking girl, with a playful smile. He motioned for her to sit beside him on the bed and she did, willingly. “I’m Max.” He said. She smiled brighter, shaking his hand vigorously.
“Nice to meet you, Max.” She said. She moved her ankle and winced in visible pain. The shackle was pinching her flesh and she tried to ignore it, but the pain was etched in her face. Max felt twinge of guilt as the chain rattled with every move she made. She leaned with her head on his shoulder, gently stroking his inner thigh.
“My, you have such lovely red hair. It’s very pretty.” She looked down, knowing what was coming and began to undo his pants. “You are a very pretty girl, Serenity, but I guess you hear that all the time.” She shrugged non-committal.

“I think you’re very pretty.” As she spoke, she placed her hand inside of his pants, stroking with delicate fingers until he became hard. “You have such a pretty mouth, can I kiss you?” She brushed her lips across his and in that instant, the prey became the predator. “Your mouth is soft. You taste like honey. Sweet honey.” She purred.

“Did Selena tell you to say that?” Again, she shook her head and kissed him again, gently pushing his shoulders back, until he found himself lying on the bed. The more she spoke, the more he felt as if something about this young woman, this girl barely out of her teens, was wrong. Her voice had an almost hypnotic effect on him, and his body had a mind of its own.

“Don’t be scared,” She mumbled. “I will make you feel good. That’s why you came to this place Mr. Walters-Max. To experience the forbidden, the unexpected? And that is what you will get; the pleasure will be so worth it.” The statement, he thought, was an odd one. But this girl was odd. Something in this situation seemed unnatural and rehearsed. She whispered sweetly nasty comments and stoked his hair. “I’m not afraid of you. And you- don’t be afraid of me. It’ll be painless, I promise.” Her tone was teasing and light, but he still felt as if he should leave. In his head that little voice was screeching at him to leave. From the moment he’d laid eyes upon her he’d had the niggling feeling that something about the girl was wrong.

She brushed her thin lips against his, her tongue slipped between his teeth and he was lost in the feel of her. As she began to undress him, the warning bell in his head started to ring again. This was wrong, something about this was wrong. This room, the locked steel door, the padded walls. The chain on her ankle- this was uncomfortable and wrong. Yet, he couldn’t stop himself from wanting this waif of a girl. The way she touched him, and looked at him with something that he could only classify as want.

“Kiss me again Max.” She ran her fingers through his hair, as her mouth came closer her could smell her breath. It smelled of warm spun sugar. “Kiss me.” Her mouth covered his in a hungry, expert kiss. It was as if she were trying to devour him, pushing his mouth hard against her own. He was startled by her strength and aggression, but, inexplicably, he liked it. The surrendering of control to this delicate girl seemed to excite him even more.

As her kiss deepened, the faint taste of almond filled his mouth; almond and something sweet and sticky, something both unfamiliar but comforting and soothing. His mind clouded over, and the room became hazy, as if he’d been drugged. He could feel her moving over him, undressing him with professional ease, yet he couldn’t move. He could feel her body moving against his, and in his hazy, the image of her nude body flashed before him. He could feel her mouth warm and moist on his bare flesh. And her skin seemed to be nearly too hot to touch, but he welcomed her warmth. He found himself confused by his euphoric state, as she mounted him, taking him deep inside of her. She seemed to fit him, as if she were made for him, only him. He wanted to touch her, nuzzle her small breast, and run his hands through her flame red hair. That hair, that beautiful strawberry scented hair. He tried to reach for her and discovered that he couldn’t move. He couldn’t lift his arms. He could only lay and enjoy her surprising sexual prowess. She seemed to know how to bring him to the edge, and then back off just when he felt he was ready to explode.

“What did you do to me?” He could barely choke the words out, he tongue felt thick and heavy in his mouth. Her only reply was a series of moans and the rattling of the chain against the side of the bed. She looked at him, excitement lighting her emerald eyes, then rocked her hips slowly, so slowly that the thrill was agonizing. The pleasure was so intense, so deep; it was like nothing he’d ever felt before. Unable to focus or move, he closed his eyes and gave into it, reveled in it, listening as she murmured words of seduction in her deepening voice.
The soft girlish murmurs that had soothed him into relenting were getting louder as she spoke in a language he did not recognize. The murmurs became louder and louder echoing in his brain in an incoherent cacophony of voices screaming in his head. She twisted, seeming to bring him deeper into her, her body, slick with sweat, moved against him. Wherever she touched him, his skin prickled with new sensations, new bliss. She was, in a word, mind-blowing.

“What did you do-”  He opened his eyes and began screaming at the sight of her. No longer did his lovely Serenity there, above him; instead, looming over him was this horrendous thing. That was the only way to describe it; a thing with bright blue and red soft scale like feathers that covered every inch of it. Its features were avian but beakless; its mouth running the entire length of is flat saucer like face. It had human comparable appendages, from what he could see and breasts; there were breasts, covered in the same blue red scales. He screamed louder as it moved with an animalistic fervor over him, the bright green too large eyes staring at him.
Paralyzed, he continued to scream as it climaxed, spilling a gooey pinkish black substance across his groin and stomach, before digging its razor sharp nails into the flesh of his thighs. He immediately went numb; it was as if she’d doused him in novocaine. Not only could he not move, he felt nothing. Without saying a word, but laughing in a deep husky baritone, it moved its face to his; sweet cotton candy breath engulfed and nearly choked him.

“Serenity is so, so, hungry.” It said after sniffing him, then opened its mouth exposing three rows of pointed yellowed teeth. He opened his mouth to scream again, when its mouth clamped on his throat, tearing the flesh and bone away until there was nothing but a large bloody hole. Blood seemed to spray across the room in brilliant rivulets. He could feel the life leaving his body and the sense of relief filled him. This was the way it was supposed to be. He thought as the life drained from him and the creature that was Serenity fed upon him. There was no pain. He realized as the room went dim. There was no pain, only the gentle and somewhat erotic sense of being suckled at the neck. No pain, he thought, just as she’d promised.
She was worth every penny.