Soothing Water

I walk into a restaurant. It is fancy, I am missing a hand. The maître d’ is behind a podium that is carved from the darkest of woods into a snake about to strike. I make a sardonic comment about its relation to the service here, even though I have never been here before. No one is amused, and the maître d’ tells me that I must wait with a stern glance. I do so. I watch people come and go. I hope to sit behind the giant stone archway where there are what seems to be a thousand candles. There is a massive stained glass window in the back. It is like an old cemetery chapel, it is a beautiful thing. When I am finally summoned and seated – in a dark corner not behind the arch but at least not by the restrooms – the conversations around me gradually blend into a misophonic static.

A man comes over with a large pitcher of water. He carries it with two hands, arms outstretched, as though the pitcher is an object to be revered, a relic. I push my empty glass over to him. He pours, the liquid is so clean. Pure. I am not ready to order, I say, but he responds that he is not my waiter. She will be here soon.

I pull the menu towards me, and attempt to read it. All I can see are what appears to be hieroglyphics. I squint, I pull myself back from the menu, I place it close to my face. No change. This irritates me, and reminds me of the surrounding commotion, which I can also make no sense of. It is frustrating, and I grow angry, until I take a sip of water. I am calmed. I wait with as much patience as I can gather for service. I wait. I wait.

In the darkness, I feel a hand on my shoulder. Momma! Momma, I cry! She consoles me, tells me that there is nothing to fear in this darkness. She tells me that my heart has yet to be weighed, to wait for the light just a little while longer. Momma! Momma! I feel her hand on my shoulder.

The waitress’s hand is on my shoulder, gently shaking me. I had fallen asleep. The waitress asks if I am alright. I am not, but I tell her that I am. I apologize, it must have been a very long day, I say.

The waitress tells me her name, which I do not quite catch. Something like Kebbut or Kevehet, I do not know. She asks if I am ready. I am not, I say, clearing my throat. I apologize, and take a sip of water. I say that I cannot read the menu.

She kneels down by my chair and whispers into my ear. It is okay, she hisses. It is true, you are not quite ready. I will bring you more water.

I try to smile and thank her, but it is getting difficult to move. There is a nest of snakes on the ceiling. The noise of the restaurant comes and goes in waves, like the rushing of sand in the wind.

 


this was written for discord’s book brigade prompt for october: horror / suspense / thriller, with references to an ancient myth.

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(They’ll learn much more than we know.)

the following is a bit of flash fiction, based on a prompt given in the Book Brigade discord group. the prompt? combine themes from a randomly chosen song and a randomly chosen movie (interpreted however one wants).

song:      Over the Rainbow – Israel Kamakawiwoʻole
movie:   No Country for Old Men – Coen Brothers



 

 

There’s a window. A palm tree’s out there, just one. You’re so tired of palm trees. A pinau flies away.


 

Brother Waz sittin’ there on the porch all fat ‘n forebodin’. He gets up, lets out an intense pffffffffff, an’ he walks up to your door. Gets out his ukulele. His uke. His yewwwwwwk.

Brother Waz singin’ now. Quiet. “Ooh ooh ooh. Ooh uh.” He lines his uke up, headstock touchin’ your door lock. Twangs that F, an’ the lock blows out.


 

You’re sittin’ in the comfy chair, an’ there he is across from you, Brother Waz, sittin’ on a tiny wooden stool. It’s a noisy bit of furniture, now.

In his right hand, Brother Waz holds his uke, restin’ it over his shoulder. In his left, a page of sheet music.

“Look at this page. Two-sided. One side’s ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’. An Isidore Hochberg piece. Good ol’ Iz. The other’s ‘What a Wonderful World’. Thiele an’ Weiss. Call it, friendo-ohh. Ooh uh uh.”

You can’t. There’s no way, it can’t be done. “No. I won’t.”

Brother Waz laughs heartily. Creakcreakcreeeeeak. “C’mon. Call it.” He shakes the sheet about.

Is there a choice? You know what’ll happen. “Fine. I call both.”


 

Here’s that same window. Hundreds o’ palm trees are out there. A pinau hovers past slow-like as the ukulele begins to play.

Towered hues of gold, heavy fields of wheat with no value. Ever dust-ridden under an angry sun that wishes to die, mangled and fungal-bloomed at the center of humanity’s dreams. Elizabeth, at the corner drip-dripping to look into an empty room, nods to herself. Drooped as branches of the great ash tree, entering into me with the memory knives, reminiscent of the thorns of crowned devils the thorns of crowned devils the thorns of crowned devils. I shall take it gladly, nestled in the dead leaves of failed kisses and angel skin. Gold flickers behind the eyelids of storms and unborn children, crawling things in the style of Van Gogh spread the color scatter, heaving up images of forbidden sex in their asynchronous wake imagined.

An amalgamate of history and sadness is this dire somewhat-city we are in. On the rooftops, starving angels. Ochre lightning attempts to break free from what should have been heaven, fighting to arc arc arc and split and burn. A city made of the smell of mouldering old books and tooth decay. Made of sandstone and the steady heavy tiredness after hard labor, I see that we dwell sorely within doddering about or sleeping without dreams, not looking out windows that wish to be walls. Dust sells us tells us that we should not be here, there is nowhere else to go, or so we think aloud.

Right now there are gaps and cracks in the foundation of the eternal apartment complex that mirror those in our heart. Now what alien things dance there. By law it is required that our ceilings are painted black, younger heads tend to turn upwards. Let us read the fine print of the text, old ink mixed with alchemical magicks, verified to be written in 1589. Each word is a curled black line horror curled black line horror in electric fantasy. Loomed web words hang like arachnid mobiles from our ceilings. Umbral nests flake off chitinous eggs, stinging wires poke the fungal blooms, the thorns, and the dank basement of this groaning building is hungry magic.

Never does Elizabeth go deeper into the basement. Down. Down. Elizabeth has gold-flecked breasts. Powder the faces of shame, regret tears through a tube of Orlova-red lipstick. Earlier we looked up through the black ceiling. Scattered yellow starspatter appeared on our stomachs, stigmata of an artist’s familiar. I scratch our initials into an Yggdrasil wall. Orlova-red blood. Nails hold up empty frames, I wish them to hold whole universes of history and sadness, not this emptiness mine. Each of us sit in the ruined room, vast seas of solitude hold our hands through the harder scenes lately.

I will soon choose my own scene. The rooftop, an angel dying. Beaten wings down, last inhalation of his cigarette failing to find any sort of heaven. Yellow-gold hued monsters are towered and crumbling. I stood before the silent field of–

Silent below our alien city. Deep below our alien city. Reminiscent of Edward Kelley and John Dee’s experiments with language, a runed miasma is forming in the dead field.  We are now running under the black wings of night. New tongue-sounds on the tight whitewashed canvas between glorious Maria’s legs. Touch a bit of black curling lined horror, or kiss the dying lightning. Was it always like this, a desire for the darker corridors? Reminiscent of a broken chalice. Derelicts run these city streets, some watch closely, the most keen of them know what is to come what is to come what is to come still.

Heralds of the great satellite, empress moon. Mistress of eternal disastrous night. Oh how she will embrace us, naked, sacred, teeth fully sunk in. Rouse our dead fields, our gold flecked skin. Until something gives messy birth to some kind of hope, she will caress my dying mind. Nocturne breaths. I give myself freely to the unattended piano in her heart. Given in to her fungal blooms, her star-smeared lips. The void shall take me gladly when it is my time.

In Itsetuho’s Shadow

The sky was mud, and the heavy clouds were just darker ruts in that mud, threatening to pour their filth upon Itsetuho and his horse. He found himself slowly riding towards a lonely seaside town, not sure from whence he came. Didn’t matter anyway – this town would satisfy his needs. Itsetuho sneered. As if in response, the wind blew a rotting breath, foul as fermenting sewage, and his horse reared up in a wide-eyed fear and fury. Itsetuho jumped down, and smacked the horse’s flank with the flat of his xiphos. The horse reared again, and galloped quickly off, away from the town.

At that point a huge crash of thunder sounded, and the sky decided to unburden itself of its load all at once. Itsetuho shrugged wetly, and continued onward.

He walked the small main street through town unbothered, untroubled; all of the village residents had sheltered themselves from the storm. All but one that is, who was crouched upon a chimney top, watching Itsetuho darkly from behind the veil of rain.

Itsetuho found the inn easily despite the lack of visibility, and shoved the doors open. Within, the cliché of the usual cheery banter of drunken sailors and their attentive scantily-clad women was nowhere to be found. There was simply – a quiet beyond the storm’s raging at the roof. The barkeep stood stone-still at his post, both hands pressing on the bar, head raised to the noise, watching. From all the occupied tables and booths, attention was given only to the storm, and not a single eye shifted to Itsetuho. All but one that is, who was perched upon the stairs leading to the rooms for rent, watching Itsetuho darkly from behind the railings.

Itsetuho removed his soaked cloak, and threw it to the floor. No one flinched. He stomped over to the bar, leaving a trail of black footprints. No one cared. Itsetuho smashed a fist onto the thick wood as loudly as he could. “A room!” The barkeep slowly turned his head down to Itsetuho, handed him a small silver key, then looked back up at the ceiling as though nothing had happened, nothing had ever happened. Itsetuho sneered, and then trampled his way up the stairs to his room, no one watching darkly in his way.

Slamming the door behind him, Itsetuho pulled a simple wooden chair into the center of the room. He drew his sword, and sat. He waited for night to come. It wouldn’t be too long, the storm would bring it quicker, blacker, deadlier.

The storm slowly spent itself, and sputtered, spattered its way out. The rut of clouds died slow, and birthed a full harvest moon, the orange of dead leaves crawling with worms. The glow cast a knowing glare into Itsetuho’s room, and Itsetuho smiled wide, so wide the corners of his mouth cracked and bled. It was time.

He raised his short sword, and plunged it deeply into his stomach.

Itsetuho quietly reveled at the scream he heard from the next room as he removed the sword neatly from his stomach. No effort, no pain, no blood. A muffled commotion grew in the hallway. Desperate cries for help, and bashing at the neighboring door commenced. Itsetuho cracked his neck leisurely to the left, to the right, and swung his sword mightily towards his knee.

More screaming, and massive confusion from the hallway. Blood pooled underneath his door. Itsetuho nearly laughed aloud as he stabbed at his throat, and twisted. He cut at his face. He sliced at his wrists.

Screaming, and screaming, and screaming. Itsetuho was ecstatic. He continued on, xiphos raging as the storm raged, until the screaming turned to gurgles, and pained whispers of distress. He continued until there was silence. Itsetuho stood, hung his sword on his door, and went to bed, falling asleep easily, restfully. All others in the inn, and in the village lay dreamlessly, dead. All save one, that is, watching Itsetuho darkly, standing at the side of his bed.

Color

“We love your work. But we are looking for some color–”

“I will not. I will not change what I do for anyone. I work in black and white only, and I am damn good at it too.”

“Okay, it was nice to meet you, thank you for coming, goodbye.”


3:00am

He woke up shaking, hot. That nightmare again. Absurdity.

C was a professional photographer, well-known, and well-off for it. His camera was a part of him, always. C walked with a slight hunch due to the weight of his gear, and no one really seemed to notice.

C only ever worked in black and white. It was a truth of the world. He knew all of the subtle nuances of the process. There were forms and motion and hidden depths that only appeared there, and C brought out every single one of them. He could bring tears to the eyes of the beholder with very little effort.

Yes, he was damn good at it.

C looked at the clock behind the camera on his bedside table and sighed. He threw the sheets off, and sat up. He wiped his forehead, stood up, and then he heard the scratching again.


“…thank you for coming, goodbye.”

Ever since C bought his new apartment, there was scratching in the wall behind his headboard. Every night.

At first, he threw a huge fit with building maintenance, the owners, everyone involved. Excuses were made, reasons given, massive checks traded back and forth, but the scratching never stopped. Investigations by maintenance, construction, plumbing, animal control, private investigators, and various scientists were made. Walls, insulation, support beams, all were checked, adjusted, and/or replaced. Cameras were installed within the walls, and monitored 24/7, at incredible and meaningless cost.

All was to no avail. The source of the scratching was never determined. The building manager suggested he change apartments, offering a free upgrade, but C was stubborn. This was the apartment he chose, this would be the apartment in which he stayed. The building manager shrugged, and forced him to sign an official form stating he would not sue, nor bother the manager with any further issues relating to the apartment.

C read it over, gave up on the entire thing, scrawled his signature violently onto the form, and bought a very expensive set of headphones to block all sound such that he could sleep.

It was all a goddamned waste.


“We love your work…”

Every month since his wife’s death nearly ten years ago, C bought a bouquet of flowers to place upon her grave. His wife wasn’t actually buried there – her body was never found – but it didn’t matter. Even when he was on trips out of the country to take photographs, very expensive photographs, he would fly back home to put flowers on her grave. C knew nothing of flowers, so he left the decision in the florist’s hands.

C always went to the same flower shop, no exception. He’d been dealing with the same florist for some years now.

Maddie was very good, it seemed to C, with flowers. More importantly perhaps was that Maddie was very photogenic. He really didn’t care about the flowers. It was about the ritual. C made it a priority to get to know Maddie a bit more. She had fine lines behind her eyes that made him curious, as they completely disappeared when she smiled.

They got engaged three months ago.


“I will not change what I do…”

7:00pm

He smashed the back of Maddie’s head in with the same hammer that he had killed his wife with.


2:00am

The wall just over C’s aching head cracked audibly. A long crooked black line slowly opened, raining drywall dust down upon the bed. C could not move, he could only look up at the wall.

From the crack in the wall poured chrysanthemums and lilies, every type of rose, sunflowers, daisies. Tulips. Mums. Amaryllis, baby’s breath, iris, hyacinths. A thick river of flowers. Barrels of flowers. Massive bouquets of flowers. They flowed down upon C, who still could not move. Tigerlilies. He tried, he tried to grab the sheets, he tried to claw his way off the bed. Roses, roses, roses. Nothing.

As the flowers slowly suffocated him, his camera’s flash went off again, and again, and again.


7:00am

On the tenth anniversary of his wife’s death, all of C’s photographs burst into glorious color.

No one noticed.

“…we are looking for some color…”

a short bit

John and his goddamned grey hair slicked back like a trapped animal snapped their voice commands as though they were a surreal painter on a lethal mix of meth and turpentine.

“Format your document as per the standard protocol! Yes! Utilize the facilities only twice per shift! Fifteen, by five-o-now! Stop that immediately! Steven, what are you doing? Steven!”

I looked to his monitor. “Well, John. I–“

“Get to it, Steven! No unnecessary verbal output! “

“Alright, I’ll get to it, you old knife.” I pressed the button.

There was a muffled boom. The cubicle ship shook, and John’s monitor went black, but not before I had the extreme pleasure of seeing the death-angels take over his windowpod.

After the next sleep cycle, a few of my coworkers came over to my station wondering if I knew what happened, who might have the bravery or the know-how to do such a thing, how am I so much younger than everyone else, all that. I shrugged them all off.

I can’t have people constantly bothering me while I’m working on my next device.

(something)

the following is the beginning of… something. whether it ends, or even continues, is up to you. email me [cruxymox@yahoo.com] with your thoughts, whether they be yes!, ugh., or the next sentence/paragraph/chapter. anything, really.


reality is slick and black – one might slip their fingers through it and stain. were there any, wet shadows would steal rumors from passers-by.

i and two broken coins in my hand. a veil over reality, oiled.

listen – you will not find me sympathetic.

so i’ve the two coins, finger-things clink-clink-clinking as they would, while crawl i do through this rotting hole. it is the only sound – i can be very quiet when i wish.

i am heading to the seller of books. i’ve learned of one that interests me. may i learn something that i need. i wonder what look the book has been given, what it will cost me. not my two coins. certainly not my two coins. clink-clink.

it’s then i notice something in my path. it is a human, a small female. it is standing still, staring, glaring at me. it has not run screaming away. burning blood does not pour from its eyes. oddly, it maintains a regular heartbeat. slow. in my way. it seems i will need to either eat it, or worse still, communicate with it. i hold steady, and wait to see what it will do.

“yorrrrruglee.”

urgh. english-languaged. not a question though. so i wait. quiet, my coins.

“welll… arn’t-y’guna seisumthing?”

an odd question. i open several mouths and oscillate various tongue-snakes. beyond that i do not respond. i continue to wait.

it comes closer, a hand reaching out to touch–

remember. remember.

…fast i extend pseudopodia. grab the girl, grab the girl. annoyance turned into a neatly wrapped-trapped meal. my digestive system ululates. mmm.

onward i slink. clink-clink.

an hour passes perhaps. two. the tunnel-muck pleasurable in all ways. no other travelers but for the ones acting as nutrients for the mushrooms. three. the unseen violence of mushrooms. some are as large as i am, rooted in limbs of the ceiling. four. others are biolumines–

ONANON BOUT MUSHROOMS. I DONTLIEK MUSHROOOOMS. SLIIIIMEEE. SHOOSHIT.

the small human female. sorcerer! fully digested, but the intangibles remain, and now they’re… mine.

WATSA SORE-SIRRER? AND YOREMINE.

it tries to w-waggle one of my arm extensions, there is no result.

LETSJUSTGO. I WANTOOSEE THE BOOK! I CANCOL’R THE PIKTCHURES!

i nearly drop my coins.

by the thirteen eyes of [REDACTED]. calm, small human female.

MYNAMES E. V.

evie. noted. listen, evie. it seems that we are to be together for some period of time. you are going to have to adapt your speech patterns, or else be tuned out completely.

FIIINE. But sometimes I get to waggle your things.

that is… fair.

would it be fair? to give control of one’s physical aspects over to another. it is–

A lot, maybe! Now let me try it.

i allow access to a portion of myself. evie fumbles a bit with an appendage, forming it into a human arm. a hand with twenty two fingers at its end. it–

She!

…she. she crushes a mushroom growing from a corpse in the wall. screaming is minimal. i regain control, dissolving the fungus remnants.

That was cool! But gross too, I could feel it… Eww!

i did not.

a learning experience for both of us, then.

let us go.

The book!

the book.

continue on i – we – do.