No Peace; Tasteless Beer

Nagging.  I hear my wife’s insistent voice, but the words are far away and…mushy, like.  Sometimes it’s like that. I dunno why.  I hear almost everything else fine.  The birds outside the windows.  The steady hum of the refrigerator in the kitchen. But sometimes her voice sounds like it’s coming from real far away…or through water.  Now, I can’t hear exactly what she says, but after 34 years of marriage, I know that tone well enough.   I just want to sit in my chair and drink a beer, watch the game.  I’m a simple man.  I’m a simple man, and like most women, she’s a complicated woman.  I love ‘er, Lord knows I do, but sometimes I just wish she’d stop talking.

I give up.  Can’t taste the beer anyhow.  So I get up and drift to the bedroom.  I feel tired, but I’m not sure how that can be. Why can’t I taste the beer, but I can still feel tired.  Dead tired.  Hardy har.  Maybe it’s on account of all that nagging.  It always did wear me right out, squabbling with her, even when she did most of the talkin’.

Now that I’m in the bedroom and just wanna sleep, all of sudden, her voice is clear as a bell, like she’s whispering right in my ear.  How can a man sleep like that?  Oh, well…at least she’s not nagging anymore.  But this may be worse because now she’s crying softly.

Why did you leave me?  I miss you so much… I’m so lost without you.  I’ll never let you go.

I tell her to hush, that’s it’ll be okay, but she doesn’t hear me, which seems to set her off to nagging again.

Why won’t you talk to me?

I should be aggravated, but now I’m sad, because, dammit, I miss her too.  I can’t touch her…but she won’t leave me alone.  And somehow that makes it worse, having something or someone so close, but you just…can’t…reach ’em.

Somehow the thought makes me more tired.  So I wish she’d just stop talking altogether, just for a while, so I can get some rest.

Jesus, woman.  Even dead, I can’t get no peace.

Reddit writing prompt:

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The Cycle (III): Meraki

*in keeping with the past two segments of Prompts For the Promptless in which I participated (courtesy of Rarasaur,) I’m going make this week’s prompt another short story in the same series.  Here are the first and second shorts in the series.  I kind of like doing it this way because it allows me to keep to the same story idea, but frees me from having to worry too much about pacing and tying together chapters.  It allows me to play with different styles of writing with each segment.  Plus, Rara’s prompts give me a theme to work with.  So without further pontification on my part…

The Cycle: Meraki

She didn’t find the journal until several months after he’d been in prison.  It didn’t seem as if he had taken great pains to hide it from her.  Rather, he’d likely felt confident that she had no reason to mistrust him or to snoop through his belongings, so complete was his hold over her.

And, damn him, he’d been right.  A simple leather bound book with a snap, the journal was right in his car console, masquerading as a benign looking day planner, or maybe a forgotten address book.  In fact, she thought that’s what it at first, and only opened it in a sort of distracted and automatic way.  At least that’s what she told herself.

Only were the contents nothing like what she expected.  Still, had she found the journal a half a year ago, she might have passed off the contents as nothing more than lines from some obscure film, or perhaps her husband’s attempts at some creative writing.  But now the lines of obsessively neat script seemed damning–not to him.  He’d already confessed when he knew he could no longer make any reasonable claims to innocence, and yet here she was, knowing she would have given him the benefit of doubt with almost eager self-deception.

(photo: courtesy of Immortal Longings on Etsy)

(photo: courtesy of Immortal Longings on Etsy)

…It’s my art. The first thing I’ve cared about in a long time.  First, the woman- she is a blank canvas, and I paint her with blood.

But there’s more- the performance art.  All the world really is a stage, and everyone I meet is a bit actor, but they don’t know it.

Or a chess board, and they are all pawns.  I’m not the king though.  The king is weak, with no freedom of movement.  I am more like the queen- I move, silently and lethally, and the pawns never see me coming.

The Cycle (II)- Schadenfreude

*the following short fiction excerpt is a combination response to Rarasaur’s Prompt for the Promptless and answer to the interest shown by some readers on my short story The Cycle. Enjoy, and feel free to comment.

The Cycle- Schadenfruede

She could remember when she had loved him, been enamored with him.  She remembered it in the way one sometimes remembers a dream, like a detached observer.

…Their first meeting, on the back patio of the bar where she and her friends from work had gone after the dull and seemingly interminable company party…  The tentative anticipation and exhilaration of finally meeting someone who could potentially hold her interest for more than a few weeks.  She remembered his dark good looks and his easy charm.  The electricity of their first kiss.

Even now, she could remember his effect on her.  How she had lusted for him and had to force herself to wait even the short week before they fell into bed together in a furious tangle of limbs.  Now, the thought of her lust for him sickened her.  She felt nauseous and ashamed, disgusted by the memory of his face, still handsome and seemingly unaffected by his time in prison.  Disgusted that she had fallen for him, even though, objectively, she could still remember why she had loved him.

But mostly she was disgusted that she had been so completely and utterly fooled by him.  She felt used and stupid.  She felt responsible, as if, in her stupidity, she had somehow been an accomplice to his crimes.

Because now, casting a harsh eye back over the past ten years of her life, she could clearly see– she should have seen– that something was wrong.

He had handled her too easily on too many occasions.  They had fought little throughout their courtship and marriage.   He always seemed so considerate of her feelings, even when her fears or feelings may have been irrational.  He always knew the right things to say, or when to say nothing.  She could see now that what she had taken to be easy-going, what she had thought was just his generous nature, insouciance, had really been an expertly veiled sort of scorn.  The smug bastard had let her have her way simply because he could.  And he enjoyed being able to manipulate her so easily.

Once they had been together for a while, once her trust in him was complete and unwavering, he had enjoyed free rein to pursue his other...hobbies.   He had complete control over her, and she hadn’t even known it, because he had never harmed her, never threatened her, or even said so much as an unkind word to her.  

Now she found herself on some level wishing, perversely, that he had hit her, insulted her or belittled her…given some sign of his true nature.  His abuse had been so much more insidious.  It was in his contentment and pleasure in the  role he was playing– the doting husband–  and in his wife’s utter ignorance.

The Cycle

“I asked you a question.”

He’s trying to control the conversation.  Don’t let him.  You have the power now.  He’ll never control you again.

“Say something…say something!” His lapse in composure is brief, but she sees the rage that she now knows must have always been there.

“What do you want me to say?”

“I want you to answer the question.”

A pause.  “How could you do what you did?  Those women…”

“Have you never been taught not to answer a question with a question?”  She’s never heard that note of condescension in his voice before.  Not in 8 years of marriage or the two years they dated before that.

I never knew him at all…who is this man?

“You still love me…”  His eyes pin her to the spot, like a butterfly mounted in a display case.  “You miss me.  You need me.  Don’t you?”

don’t need him.  And I don’t love him, not anymore.  But, God help me, I do miss him.  At least, I miss the person I thought he was.

“Answer me.”  Somehow this quiet command is more frightening than all of his rage.

I’m not scared of him.  He can’t hurt me anymore.  I’m not scared, I’m…  Defiant,”Why should I?”

“Because I have something you want.”

“You don’t have anything I want anymore!”  No!  Don’t let him see your anger!  If you’re angry, he wins.

He smiles.  “We both know that’s not true.  I know where your sister is.”

bflies-071

Omega

[Friend and fellow blogger Emmie Mears is having another one of her flash fiction competitions, so I thought, what better time to flesh out an idea that’s been knocking around in my head for a couple of days?  I get to satisfy my urge to write without being committed to a full-length novel or story…yet.  Her contest isn’t quite open for submissions yet, but I just couldn’t wait to get a little feedback on this post.  Hoping it fits neatly enough into the dystopian/horror sub-genre…  Who knows, maybe I’ll be able to expand upon it at a later date.  *See notes related to story’s particular plot at the end of the post.]  

Omega-E spreads fast, but there is about a month from the identification of patient zero to the time when the dead start to outnumber the living. The CDC and the government try to manage the numbers, with mass cremations to control the spread of the disease and to keep the corpses from piling up. Americans are pissed. Until their fear trumps the need to mourn and bury their dead. The situation declines fast and martial law is declared, but it’s a token gesture, with soldiers stationed only where there are valuable resources the government deems “in need of protection.” In most of the cities and suburbs, there is no law anymore.

This makes gathering supplies a lot easier, but also a lot more dangerous. There are other dangers besides contamination. Looters, psychos. The marines guarding the supplies will shoot to kill with the slightest provocation. But the worst, other people like us, people whose desperate minds have turned black with panic. Sometimes you can actually see the madness, flapping around, like a bird with a broken wing, behind their too-bright eyes.

And then there are the Infected. Like zombies, only worse. They’re sick, shambling…and bleeding copiously. Omega-E is almost entirely hemorrhagic. Makes the cases of Ebola in Africa look like a head cold. The Omega virus dies more quickly outside of the body than it’s African predecessor, so chances of surface contamination are lower, but once infected…there is no recovery. The only upside is that incubation for Omega-E is brief, the tell-tale rashes, fevers, and vomiting appearing within 24 hours of contamination, with death only a few days later. This makes the Infected pretty easy to identify.

It also makes them very dangerous. Almost up until their last breath, usually dragged laboriously through lungs filled with blood, they are aware… and terrified. If the uninfected have a panic-bird behind their eyes, the Infected are infested with whole flocks. Like drowning victims, they’ll drag down anyone who chances close enough.

It’s easy to stay inside for the first week or so. As the pandemic ramps up, we make pilgrimages to the store and start setting supplies back. But eventually we’ll need to go out there again. We have a little girl. Even if we could live on next to nothing, she couldn’t. And although the electricity and water remain on for the moment, there’s no telling how long it will last.

I heard a rumor about the government instituting rolling blackouts to manage the power supply and “ensure continuity of service” for everyone. The pretenses are breaking down. Pretty soon they won’t even bother to lie to us.

We need a plan. A few more trips out for supplies. Right before dawn seems to be quietest. The pharmacy. The grocery. Guns if we can find them. And then we’ll go out into the country, or maybe the woods. Somewhere there are no people, where we can wait this thing out. It has to end sometime, right? Right…?

 *Due to the word count constraints imposed by Emmie, I didn’t get to delve too deeply into my desired plot  concept.  It may seem like “just another” zombie story, but what I really wanted to explore was how a couple like myself and my hubby would get along with our toddler in the midst of a pandemic crisis.  See, in horror films, you don’t often see many really young children portrayed and my guess is that it’s due to the “logistics” of trying to survive when you have to care for someone who not only completely dependent on you for their well-being, but also not yet cognitively developed enough to realize the necessity of basic evasive and survival skills.  For instance, how do you keep a frightened two year old quiet so you can hide from a passing zombie horde?  I want to follow a couple with no special skills (no ex-green berets or weapons experts here) as they endeavor to survive and protect what is dearest them, and I want to do it without taking the easy way out and “killing off” any characters that could be seen as a hindrance or potential “baggage” to the flow of normal horror stories/ films.  Of course, I have not gotten that far yet. 

How to Kill a Werewolf

artwork from Cycle of the Werewolf by Stephen King

“Silver bullets. How ridiculous…”

“You mean they don’t really work?”

He snorted. Pale yellow light from inside softly   illuminated their table through the cafe windows, and the ring in his lip glimmered, reflecting the glow, whenever he spoke. His teeth were very white. “Well, yeah. I guess they would…if any of those morons actually knew how to make them.”

Her mouth made a disapproving little moue, but her eyebrows betrayed her confusion and curiosity.

He set his cup of coffee on the tiny cafe table, leaned back in his seat, and settled his hands comfortably on his flat belly. “Well, you don’t think it’s like the movies, do you? Some high-school kid melts down some silver in shop class and pours it into a bullet mold? Loads it into a handgun?” He chuckled and shook his head.

“What?” She sounded slightly defensive.  That was pretty much exactly what she thought.

“You don’t know anything about guns, do you?”

“What do you mean?” Now she was definitely defensive.

He favored her with a bemused look. “How do you think a bullet fires? Magic? You can’t just put a bullet-shaped piece of silver in a gun and pull the trigger,” he said, mimicking the action with an imaginary finger-gun. “First of all, bullets come in casings. You need gunpowder to make the bullet go, to fire it out of the casing. And then you need something to ignite the gunpowder; that’s what the primer is for. The pin inside the gun strikes the base of the cartridge casing when you pull the trigger and –boom!– sparks the primer, which ignites the gunpowder. The energy of the explosion and the compressed gases force the bullet out of the casing.” He paused and lit a cigarette. “It takes skill to make that kind of thing. Not just any idiot can do it.” The hand holding the cigarette described lazy circles in the air.

She stared at him a moment, and then- “Well, wise-ass, do you know how to make silver bullets?”

artwork from Cycle of the Werewolf by Stephen King

“No-oo. But I know the principles behind it.” Then he added, with exaggerated patience, “you don’t need to be a chef to know if your food tastes good, do you? Or a professional singer to know when someone else can’t carry a tune in a bucket?”

Her eyes narrowed momentarily but she had no rebuttal. Finally, she said, “So if bullets are out, what’s the next best thing? Monkshood? Beheading? Silver-tipped arrows?”

He smiled thinly at her. “Did I say bullets were out? No, bullets’ll work-”

“But you just said-”

“I said homemade silver bullets wouldn’t work. That’s amateur kid’s shit. Real bullets would work just fine. They don’t even have to be silver, just aimed into the right major organ and big enough to do the job.”

“Really?” she asked, her annoyance momentarily forgotten.

“Sure.” He shrugged. “They’re freaks of nature…but they’re still just animals. Like people.” He reached for his cup and downed the rest of the coffee.

“What’s that supposed to mean? ‘Like people’?”

He leaned forward and butted out his cigarette in the glass ashtray on the table. “People,” he repeated, speaking slowly, as if to a child. “Man. Human beings. Homosapiens… Scientifically speaking, we all belong to the Animal Kingdom. We’re all animals.”

She rolled her eyes so he added, almost apologetically, “I only meant that they may have the strength and senses of a wolf, and the intelligence of a man, but they’re animals. All animals can be killed, and it doesn’t take a silver bullet to do it.”

“Right. Well, it’s getting late and I have to work tomorrow, soooo…I’d better jet. Thanks for the coffee.”

He only smiled and lit another cigarette, the flame from the lighter reflecting on his white teeth and his lip ring. She thought it was probably made of silver.

© alienredqueen (pencil and Prismacolors)

Diagram of typical

Diagram of typical “bullet” – more appropriately termed “cartridge”:  1-bullet 2-casing 3-gunpowder 4-rim 5-primer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tidal Pull (IV)

Aug 22

I go to the doctor’s for a physical.  Dr. Carr has been my physician for a while, but he doesn’t really know me, because, like most guys I know, I avoid the doctor unless I am practically dying.  So at first, he looks at my chart with a mixture of mild disapproval and curiosity. Continue reading