…things…

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Tonight, the dying sun is huge and red as it drops into the embrace of the horizon, painting the sky in a panoply of oranges, violets, and pinks. It casts its paintbrush onto the dirty mounds of snow choking the narrow streets as well, rendering a floral display bursting with cold life.

The Natural will always find a way to disguise the ugliness of our world, if we mere humans will only take the time to admire its work.

I register this artwork as a small detail in my peripheral vision during my run toward home, without stopping to appreciate the view.  My instinct for self-preservation is stronger than Nature’s nightly art display.  Curfew is sundown, and for good reason.

Anyone not within safe enclosure?  …things… happen.

Chest heaving, I shove the heavy glass door of my building open, barely beating the soft ‘click’ of the auto-lock mechanism inside the solid steel frame and the rapid decent of the iron safety bars in front of the glass facade.  The door swings shut to adhere to its weighty frame with a satisfying thunk.  The cage finishes its drop a moment later with an equally comforting rattle that tickles the ears and reverberates through the painted concrete floor.

In the sudden silence of the lobby, my labored breathing is deafening, and I double-up against my shaking knees, trying to catch my errant breath.

 

“A moment later…” a little voice chimes in my head.

The rest of that thought is too horrifying to complete.

 

IMG_0287I shift to lean against the graffiti-and-grime spattered wall, furiously sucking in great drafts of musty air.  The muscles of my body demand fresh oxygen after their efforts to propel me to safety, and my lungs labor to fulfill that need.

My heart pounds furiously in my chest as it, too, labors – distributing the oxygen-rich blood the lungs are busy providing.  My fingers and feet throb in time with the casket of muscle straining in my chest.

I give myself a bare five minutes to recover from the mad dash of the last minutes…to bring my raging lungs back to more normal patterns of breathing and my heart to slow its rapid pounding.  I may have passed the immediate danger of being out-of-cover after nightfall, but I’m still visible to the street…and there are 11 flights of rickety stairs with floor-to-ceiling plate glass on each landing, between me and the tiny cube of interior walls I call my sanctuary.

stair darkI contemplate the derelict risers.  Time, and endless feet, have eroded the carpet on the stairs from thick, cheerful swirls of color to a slimy streak of threadbare fabric the color of ashes.  Those same feet have worn the wood’s glossy varnish down to mediocre grayish-brown and black stains.  The hands accompanying the before-mentioned feet have wreaked equal havoc on the handrail – streaking the polished wood with infinite layers of human oils and other, less pleasant to think about, substances.

The endless circle of stairs is both the bane of my twilight sojourn home, and the reason my home is sanctuary.

…things… never happen any higher than the 6th floor.

With a sigh of inevitability, I place my hand gingerly on the slick/sticky rail, setting my foot on the first of countless steps.

Tap.  Tap.  Tap.

Behind me.  On the glass enclosure of the lobby.

Two fingers of ice slowly walk their delicate way down my spine as I freeze in place, left hand on the railing, right foot on the stair.  I suck in a very slow and cautious breath, careful not to let the movement of my chest disturb my exposed back.  My heart hammers in my ears, furiously pumping adrenaline-spiked blood through my veins.  It’s a titanic effort of will to keep myself motionless against the beating demands of unleashed chemical instinct which is screaming at me to run, hide, conceal myself in the convenient shadows just 3 steps up.

…things… happen when your movements draw attention.

Chemistry changes tactics.  If flight isn’t an option, we’ll go to option two.  The roaring blood in my ears blocks out sound, demanding I turn and face the unknown adversary tapping on the glass.  The fingers of my left hand tighten on the rail, and the right’s digits attempt to curl.

One more shallow breath, one more slow release, another Herculean effort to keep my fingers from fisting.

Tap.  Tap.  Tap.

Three sharp, staccato bursts echo through the lobby.  Lance through my head.  The urge to turn my head ever-so-slightly, just a teasing hint of movement, so I can see the glass and the creator of that terrifying sound out of the corner of my eye, is powerful.

There are some …things… that shouldn’t be seen.

A kaleidoscope of fractured images of the dank stairwell and dying carpet dance across my vision from the unshed tears crafting prisms in my eyes.  Slowly, I blink, jostling the moisture into motion down my cheeks.

One more shallow breath in…one more slow exhalation out.

***thud***                                     ***Crrrrrrrrrrrack!!***

The window creaks madly at the sudden weight thrown against it.

I bolt up the stairs, no longer able to control the mad rush of chemicals flooding my muscles and sinews, knowing from the stories that …things… stretch the truth of reality in a fiction story turned horribly real.

I reach the ninth step before the back of my left calf explodes into a bloody mess of shredded skin and fabric an instant before my ears register the crash of broken glass striking the concrete lobby floor.  I push harder, forcing the muscles of my legs to keep working, keep pumping and contracting, keep pushing my weight against the pull of gravity to get me up, up, up!

It takes me a moment longer to realize the insane screaming echoing within the vast stairwell is coming from my vocal cords.

I grab the curved railing, swinging my body around the bend in the stairs, neatly vaulting myself over the landing and onto the next flight of risers.  Frantic, screaming, wide-eyed and bloody from the knee down, I charge up toward the first of the plate glass landings.  Instinctively knowing the more sections of curving staircase I put between myself and the lobby, the greater chance I have of drawing breath past the next few minutes.

The plate glass is darkened by decades of grime – reflecting perfectly my crazed appearance…

And the surreal …things… tearing up the landing below me.

 

My chest is on fire- my lungs straining to complete the exchange of choking carbon dioxide for clean oxygen fuel.  My heart is pounding at an alarming rate, trying to cycle the blood fast enough to keep my legs pounding, pounding, pounding on the staircase.  My vision narrows to single flashed images:  the next stair above me, my grimy shoe, a patch of cleaner wallpaper.

I bang into a solid object.  All forward momentum is halted, and I grab wildly at the object to keep myself from pitching backwards down the stairs.

The object grabs back.

A navy-on-black, 3 piece, double-breasted pinstripe suit.  A bright red, (possibly) silk tie.  Perfect half-Winchester knot between the tabs of a crisp, white collar.  Gold watch chain snaking across the matching vest.  Black leather shoes, buffed to an eye-blinding gloss.  Shoestrings carefully tied in twin bows.

I feel ten very solid – but very human – fingers digging into my upper arms.

“Tsk, tsk…” The sound slides from between perfectly sculpted, pursed lips, enshrouded with a dusting of black, five o’clock shadow.  “A mad dash?  All that wild screaming?  Such sounds coming from such a little thing?  Whatever will the neighbors think?”

Five of those iron fingers slide up my arm, along my collar-bone, and tease a gold chain from beneath my clothing.

“You know …things… happen when you steal from The Company.”

 

 

All 10 iron fingers lock around my throat.

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Dream On

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“Sleeping Beauty” by Henry Meynell Rheam

Everyone dreams.

Now, for the purpose of definitively defining what I mean by ‘dream,’ I’m talking about the picture-show that goes on behind our eyelids when we become unconscious in the night.

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Or day – depending on your work schedule and/or lifestyle options.

And not the long-range goals or unobtainable objectives you fervently desire to become reality, but just aren’t going to.

World Peace, anyone?

Sometimes, I have REALLY weird dreams.  Or prolific dreams.  Or the dreams that help me sort out a particular, real-life issue.  Or the ones that rouse me from my somnolescent state while it’s still dark out, with my nerves shrieking, my heart pounding, and my breath rasping in my lungs.

Like most people, the bulk of my dreams fade into non-memory once real life re-asserts itself.

But there are some dreams – that stick with you.

One night, I mixed the Rocky Horror Picture Show together with the Lord of the Rings, and did the Time Warp with Transvestite Hobbits on top of a medieval tavern’s bar.

Last night – was not an amusing/joyful/goofy/fun dream…

And I still can’t shake it.

I moved from my little 1 bedroom apartment this month, to a larger 2 bedroom, to accommodate the kid’s need for a bedroom of their own, and to finally be able to have my sweetie and myself under the same roof, so I know this is the real-life situation that the dream was based on.

But still….freaky as fuch…

***********

I was in an apartment, viewing for potential move-in-ability.  It was a ranch-style condo type apartment with its own basement and parking garage.  You parked in either the garage or the driveway, walked a bit, then climbed a flight of stairs to the deck which graced the front door.  The front door opened into the kitchen.  Everything was dark and slightly cobwebby, with an air of abandonment and little trinkets and various junk-objects still in residence from the last tenant.

I had the keys, and there was no landlord or property manager showing me the place, I was just wandering aimlessly from room to room.

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“Relativity” by M.C. Escher

Once inside, I couldn’t find the exterior walls.  Room opened into hallway into room into hallway into room.  If I found an occasional window, it opened into another hallway or interior room.

S was with me.  She was (as she usually is) bubbly and loving the weird atmosphere, all the bizarre objects left lying around, and prattling on about how we’d have ALL THIS SPACE!

We found the basement (with no knowledge of finding the stairs).  In the basement were three separate kitchens, still full of pots & pans and antique (dirty, chipped, and/or rusted) dishes.

It reminded me a bit of one of the larger antique stores in the Waukesha area, where they’d set up various living-configurations of furniture, shelves, and purchasable objects in the basement.

Now, I’m back upstairs, and watching the moving truck back into the driveway, men starting to unload furniture I know I didn’t own, but felt ‘mine’ to me.  I started to protest, that I hadn’t signed the lease or paid the rent, but they continued to load my things into this house.

The SQO pops up in my line of sight, concern painted on his features, and questioning why we’re moving here, when we’ve signed the lease on the apartment downtown?

Back in the basement, someone’s cooking something in one of the three kitchens, a lot of banging, clattering, and something really spicy perfuming the air, and I’m in a shadowy side of the basement.  Nothing there.

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The space is antiseptically clean.  Not so much as a dust mote in the air.

And the feeling comes.  I’ve been here before.  I’ve never left here.  And I’ve wanted to escape for a lifetime.

Because this place is not natural, and not really on this plane, and there IS no escape.

The lights fade.  Darkness descends.  And a dry, throaty chuckle issues from behind my left shoulder.

 

Yea – that’s where I woke up, heart threatening to pound itself straight out of my chest.

I HATE the creepy ones…

 

Flash! Fiction Friday! Jeanne d’Arc

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It’s Friday again – which means it’s time for the weekly dose of Flash on one of my favorite Flash Fiction sites.  I had 2 ideas buzzing around in my head over the photo prompt – a painting of Jeanne d’Arc (Joan of Arc, to us Westerners over on this side of the pond) created in the 17th century – so rather than beat myself up over choosing one or the other idea to pursue…I did ’em both.

Enjoy!

Heavenly Desire

156 words

Personalvapes@gmail.com

“You know what I ask,” Michael whispers seductively in my ear, his hot breath tickling its way down the back of my neck. “You know you want to.”

His velvety, angelic voice sends a frisson down my spine.  His soft-spoken request is the brush of downy wings tickling every hair on my body to stand erect, rigid, eager to give in to the raging desire pulsing through my soul. I can feel the desire…the want…slide down the length of my body to pool in my chest.

The sibilant hiss of my pulse pounding in my ears chants “Yess, yesssss, yessssss,” in time with my wildly beating heart as this ache of desire threatens to consume me in the heat of its crescendo.

The Archangel requests I give my life for King, for God, for the greater good as the wailing trumpets herald in a new day of flame and retribution.

Today, I die for my country.
OR!!!!!!!!

Museum of the Damned

159 words

personalvapes@gmail.com

“This late 19th century painting by Eugene Thirion is a classic example of French Political Art…” the tour guide’s bright, vibrant voice dropped away as Sylvia gaped, mesmerized, at the sweeping whorls and splashes of pigment, carefully arranged to suggest human forms, within the gilt frame.

She stared harder as the design shifted, slowly spiraling, distorting the figures into a maelstrom of swiftly-spinning color which sucked at her sanity, tugged at her soul.

“I burn,” hissed a sculptural voice, echoing from the whirlpool to Sylvia’s ears.  “I saved them all, and they burned me for my efforts.”

Completely ensnared, Sylvia reached for the roiling vortex even as it stretched toward her, knowing, but not caring, that the touch meant madness, fire, death, damnation.

An icy hand clamped on her shoulder, painfully forcing her knees to impact the cool mosaic floors of the museum.

“Don’t stare at them, my dear,” chirped the tour guide, “You wake the damned that way.”

Flash! Friday – Calling All Cars!!!

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Flashy little Origami Flowers…

One place I’ve made a digital home is over on Flash! Friday.  They offer a weekly flash fiction contest.  Not that I play for the distinction of ‘winning’ something (in this case a bit of electronic bragging rights) but for the challenges it offers the Queen Muse, the chance to read, read, read some other writer’s work, and the opportunity to have other writers offer any criticism, encouragement, or suggestions.

Welcome to networking in the new millennium…no actual physical contact needed.

Today’s flash fiction prompt is a shot of a Santa doll in front of a police line-up board – and the absolute first words that crossed my brain for this challenge ended up both title, and opening line.  After that – things got creepy.

Enjoy – and be Nice! (or else…)

Calling All Cars!

157 words

“Calling all cars!  Calling all cars!”

Every year, we get the call.  Every year, we respond.  Every year, our department fails to close this decades-old case.

“Person of interest male, white, late 70’s, portly.  Full facial hair, white.  Last seen wearing bright red suit and hat with white fringe, black belt, black knee-boots.”

My hands curl around the steering wheel, mentally preparing for the yearly bloodbath.

“Suspect get-away vehicle tiny sleigh pulled by 8 animals of reindeer origin.  No plates evident.”

My partner and I lock eyes, knowing …HATING… what’s coming.

“Ocular trauma to multiple victims.  Eyes replaced with charcoal briquettes.”

I yank a cigarette from the pack on the dash.  “Shoulda been nice…” I whisper, even as my partner mutters  “It’s always the naughty ones…”

“Suspect 3.75 inches tall.  Last known locations… “

A string of addresses follow, blanketing the car in a wall of sound.

“Public Enemy number one…” I growl, flipping on the siren.