Late getting home

She was walking home, late, again. Her father would surely find out this time. Mother could only cover for Matilda so often, even with her drunkard of a husband. All the girl could hope for was that Mother had already poured her father into bed for the night. If she saw the kerchief on the wrought iron railing that led to the main door, she knew she’d be safe.

Matilda was so lost in her thoughts, she forgot her surroundings. She forgot she was in the soupy fog of a North Island fall. The thick grey pea-soup that swirled before and after her made her smile. Fog kept most people indoors. None of the neighbors would see her, especially in her gunmetal shaded gown.

The girl’s rapid steps sent her sharp taps bouncing off the soot-covered buildings on either side of the narrow alleyway. The noise echoed and multiplied, until it sounded like an army marched through the passage. Matilda cocked her head to the side, listening for a ghostly reassurance that it was only her heeled boots making the sound.

When the long arm snaked out of the shadows beside the last doorway before her family’s manor, Matilda had no time to scream. Her legs betrayed her and she fell into the accosting arms.

“What have we here,” a ragged, oily voice breathed. “Looks like a filly’s gotten loose from the master’s.”

“Let me go! You have no right,” Matilda demanded. Trembling in fear and anger, she asked, “Who are you? Why have you detained me?”

A harsh laugh burst next to her ear. Matilda could smell the fresh onions amidst the rot in that breath. Her stomach lurched. Her slender fingers flew to her mouth, determined to keep her lavish late dinner in its place.

“We ain’t nobody, girl,” the voice licked into her ear. “And we’s ain’t detainin’ you. We’ve only decided we’re to help you. Trust us, girlie.”

“Are there more than one of you? How many? What are you helping me with,” the frightened girl asked, her voice cast low and, she hoped, sounding helpless.

“You’s was headin’ towards Master Stevenson’s manor, or I’m not worth me weight in gold. So, here’s a secret only us few knows; Master Stevenson’s to be made an example. See…,” the voice moved away from Matilda, leaving her in restrained silence.

The desperate girl twisted in her captor’s arms, but she didn’t make any progress in escaping. She flailed her arms and legs, hoping to distract the man long enough for him to loosen his grip. But she stopped when she felt her daintily booted foot sink into a leg and a stench of bog-water floated to sting her nostrils.

“Ahh, you’ve hurt poor Rob. Well, at least you’ve made a dent in the ol’ boy.”

The new voice was nicer, more polished. Much more the caliber Matilda was used to. Her head jerked toward the speaker. She gasped as she recognized the man with whom she had spent the evening. She blushed furiously as she remembered losing her inhibitions while the man watched. Then her cheeks flared with indignation.

“Charles, what am I doing here?”

“Matilda. I’m so glad the boys managed to catch you before you reached home. It would be a waste for a fine piece to go to waste, all for a drunk old man who can’t manage his debts,” Charles Vallingham chuckled at her.

“What? I don’t understand,” Matilda cried. She begged the man she thought was her friend, “Please, let me go. I won’t tell anyone. I’ll make Father pay his debts. I’ll hide his liquor. No, I’ll smash it all to pieces. Just let me go, please!”

Vallingham laughed, the mirth never reaching his sparkling jet eyes. Harshly, he barked orders to three large skulking men, in a language Matilda had never heard. In horror, she watched Charles Vallingham’s hand reach for her face. He roughly twisted her head until she stared at her family’s grand mansion.

Tears rolled unfettered from her eyes as three barrels of pitch were hurled against her house. Then she tried desperately to wrench her head out of the vile man’s grip, but she was too weak. In sobbing defeat, the girl watched as her family’s manor burned, along with every inhabitant. All fifteen people inside were sure to be asleep, at the hour of veil-less.

In the distance, Matilda heard the soulless advance upon the house. The pitch-flames didn’t bother the monsters in the least as they scrambled through the shattered windows and doors. Screams chased the last remaining Stevenson as she was dragged through the silvery streets. Blood and soot filled her nose, imprinting the odor on her soul. Her anger and hatred blossomed and she fought.

She fought until Vallingham’s golem threw her into the waiting carriage. A swift blow, placed just under her upswept auburn hair, pushed her into nothingness, to wait for the nightmares to come.

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Trust me

“Trust me,” he says as she watches green bills dance madcap out the window.

“Trust me,” he smiles as she cringes from the furious collectors who shatter the chilly silence.

“Trust me,” he mumbles around the lavish feast while her belly tightens in fruitless anticipation.

“Trust me,” he laughs as the balloon animals of her dreams scurry past, to be burst with darts of unconcern.

“Trust me,” she hears echoing in the deserted, musty halls of love.

“How can I not,” she says, “when the word is all that’s left.”

Computer generation

The first rumblings of unrest came long ago. But, like any change, it took a while for anything to become noticeable. In the beginning of the movement, it was mostly the young, unemployed, dissatisfied people who did the grumbling. No one could blame them, though, because it was nearly impossible for them to find jobs. And in that world, no job meant no food, minimal housing, and not a single moment of joy. The old-timers, like my grandparents, they kept their heads down and tried to ignore the brewing uprising.

The one good thing about the revolution starting with the young ones? No jobs also meant no advanced tech. No AI to listen in on their conversations, no overseers to make sure their gatherings were listless and unexciting. It was easy, I suppose, in the early days. But once the ideas began to spread to the older generation, it was much more difficult to organize.

It was about fifteen years ago that I got involved. My grandparents died about then, which left me without anyone to lean on. I’d heard, of course, about the revolution from some of the few friends I had. I didn’t think much about any of it, though, because I was protected by my grandparents. They both had jobs, both had positions in the tech industries, and I had enough of everything I wanted. I was spoiled, I guess. But that changed when the overseers decided that my grandparents were obsolete.

We had to move the resistance to the jungles, far to the south. It was one of the only zones where the machines hadn’t gotten a foothold. The primitive tribes there were considered a protected species, separate from our own, by the governing AI. I suppose the rugged terrain, lack of surplus energy sources, and simple oversight all helped the area to remain free of the machines, too. It was there that the real change began.

We soldiers of the revolution made our first moves in 2211. We managed to completely strip the southern jungle continent of its technology, then. It became the free zone. People from all over, in all sorts of low-tech, homemade transports, flocked to the zone. They came to help the revolution, for the most part. Many of them brought their families. We welcomed them, but we didn’t promise any of them that it would be easy.

The next few years were spent trying to gain a foothold in the northern, temperate continent. Generations ago, it had been three distinct countries, but the AI merged them, making it all one zone, with a massive, interconnected tech web. The revolution stalled in the south-western area, for years. It wasn’t until the machines made a mistake that we managed to move forward. That mistake proved to be a major break for us. It underestimated our resolve and it paid the price.

The NorAm continent still isn’t the safe zone its southern counterpart is, but it’s coming along. We’re working on a compromise, a treaty, with the machines, but it’s a slog-along task. The AI has hundreds of years of law at its disposal, while we humans have to examine and debate every word on every line, searching for loopholes and contingencies the computers already see.

There are new rumblings, far out on the fringes of our new society. People are unhappy about the lack of employment, food, shelter, and voice. But, like any change, it will be slow coming.

Turning

The harsh electric lights blinded his sensitive eyes, so thick creamy candles dripped in candelabras scattered about the study. The two-story windows, with their ornate stained glass upper panes, were open to the night’s moonless sky. Heavy, dusty brocade drapes hung limply next to the windows, ready to be dragged, in a moment’s notice, across the room’s eyes.

Books, leather- and cloth-bound alike, lay abandoned on the desk and two Victorian fainting couches that were the room’s only furniture. More tomes idled in random piles around the room. A chalkboard, covered in spidery notations, lingered in the corner next to the windows, forgotten in its master’s agonized fury. The once luxurious carpet was now worn down to a memory, tossed aside upon the barren ocean of hardwood.

The room’s master, bare-chested and wearing only a pair of silk-soft ancient jeans, paced around the oasis of light in the center of the room. Growling murmurs escaped his parched lips. He chanted to himself, repeating two phrases to himself in an effort to escape his prison. His feet, roughened by months of shoelessness, nimbly avoided the mountains and molehills of abandoned books.

Abruptly, his left foot just rising to begin another journey, the master halted. His breath rasped in and out of his chapped lips; his chest heaved in aching longing for the sweet night air. Frantic with remembered illusion, the man raked through the discarded books, searching for his prize. But the piled tomes revealed no more secrets than they had in the beginning of his quest.

The sickeningly sweet odor of his breakfast being prepared pulled the man from his research. His quivering stomach yearned for the warm, dripping meat of a fresh kill, but his mind, still a reasoning thing, refused to yield to the beast inside. Silently, he waited, hands clasped tightly behind him as his maid timidly presented his repast.

His time was up. Reason fled, leaving only the beast. Alone. But for a single, petrified, girl.

Not flash, NEWS!

Not flash, NEWS!

Yep, again this is not a flash fiction piece. But, it is a post about some awesome news. Alright, maybe only awesome to me, but then again, this is my blog. So, here goes:

My fantasy novel is up on Amazon!!!

I’m super excited. In case you couldn’t tell. I’ll be back to writing flash pieces in the next day or two. Have to take some time to rest after being sick and working on publishing a book.

Oh, and here’s the link to my first-of-a-trilogy book:

Mind traps

It sucks, to be locked inside your own head. There are no bars, no chains, nothing, really, to keep you shut away. But shut away, you are.

In my head, I scream for help, but, of course, no one hears me. In my head, I beg for help from the few visitors my body receives. My sister comes to visit every so often. Less so, now, than when I first got locked up. She tries, bless her heart, but she can’t stand to see me like this. It reminds her too much of her own troubles, I think. I want to tell her I know how she gets locked up, but I can’t. Besides, it’s not the same. Mine is my own head, hers is her husband.

My aunt and uncle come to visit, sometimes together, sometimes one or the other. My aunt sits and recounts every detail of her oh-so-perfect life, which my uncle dismisses on his visits. When they arrive together, though, it’s always tales of how much the outside world has changed, or how much it’s stayed the same. They never, on any visit, mention my parents. I suppose it’s how they try to help me.

About once a year, a reporter manages to get into the visitor’s queue, but they never last long, not once they figure out that I can’t really say anything about the accident. They always tell me they’ll be back, but they never come back. Not one.

My brother has never come to visit, though he sends flowers every week. Always daisies. They were Mom’s favorites, not mine. But he never paid attention to me, anyway. I suppose it’s sweet, the way he tries to cheer me up… and assuage his own guilt about never seeing me.

Mom and Dad are in my head with me. She chases me down, like she always has, but it’s my mind, so I know more hiding spots than she does. She’s getting closer, though. I thought I’d gotten rid of both of them a few months ago. It got really peaceful and quiet in here and I thought I might finally have a chance to break out. My sister was here, then. I think she noticed something, because she leaned forward in her chair and reached for me.

But then she called me by name. The name of my mother. And like it conjured the bitter old hag, Mom popped up, between me and my exit. So I fled back into the dark places of my mind. I heard her laughing. It echoed in my head, so loud I almost didn’t hear his whimpering. But I have to stay away from Dad, too. I can’t save him. Like he couldn’t save me.

 

A magical boyhood

The freckle-faced boy with the sandy hair twirled the long-handled wooden spoon in his tiny hands and intoned his most secret of secret words.

“Babba-codabra, misa-loo, bumpup-tada!”

He smiled to himself, the little mischievous grin that he saved for his most precious of moments. He twirled in place, the gold-star studded navy cape fluttering behind. The boy adjusted his matching wizard’s hat, the cone shape smashed in on one side from a magical mishap earlier in the week.

From across the magic circle – a hand-knotted rag rug his grandmother had made – came a squeaking, tired roar. The patchwork cat with large, blue button eyes stretched and purred at the boy before pouncing on him and nuzzling against the freckled face.

“C’mon, Patches. Let’s esplore,” the boy giggled.

He grabbed one of the many books from his tiny, boy-sized bookshelf and thumbed through the pictures until he found a suitable frame to explore. He tossed the book onto the rug then pulled the patchwork feline to him.

“Bubbley-de, bubbley-be, doobie-do,” he intoned, with as much seriousness as he could muster with the playful cat nuzzling against his ear.

A cloud of gold and blue smoke puffed up from the edges of the magic circle and in a flash, the boy and his patchwork cat were standing in the middle of a fairy forest. Trees in multitudes of colors grew in alphabetical shapes. The purple and pink grasses swayed gently, despite the absence of a breeze. The air smelled of bubble-gum and apples. Tiny blue and green bunnies frolicked with yellow and orange squirrels and chattered together in amazement at the sudden appearance of the newcomers.

The sandy-haired boy laughed in delight. He let go of his cat, with one last happy squeeze, then set off through the forest in search of more adventure. The patchwork cat followed, yawning at the playful animals it passed.

Lights of all colors flitted around the boy’s head, causing him to giggle and duck his head. His wizard’s hat slipped from his head, but his following companion caught the rogue headwear upon his own head. The little magician giggled to see his friend so dressed.

The pair spied an ivory and gold castle ahead. Together, the friends bounded through the forest, skipping through the colorful grasses and singing the alphabet song.

At the open gates of the castle, the patchwork creature paused, mewling his concern at the tiny wizard. But the boy just laughed and pulled the kitty to his chest. The young wizardling sauntered into the mouth of the castle, without a care in the world.

The darkness inside fell slowly over the both of them and soon they were both snoring peacefully.

Mother pulled the colorful alphabet-covered blanket higher over the pair and kissed the boy on his forehead. She set the cape and conical hat on top of the small, boy-sized bookshelf and whispered, “Dream on.”