Kalli’s Story – Week 3 (Chasing Revery BlogHop)

I’m taking part in a story Blog Hop, where four writers are each contributing a piece of a story over the course of four weeks!

Mine is Week 3/Part 3, so if you haven’t yet read the story up to this point, please do so before continuing.

Read Part 1 by Carrie K. Sorensen at Chasing Revery
Read Part 2 by Nicole Pyles at World of My Imagination

Then continue on below, to Part 3 of Kalli’s Story.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

All things considered, it was a pretty quick walk. Actually, it was a bit too quick for Kalli’s liking – she hadn’t gone back to the house since that day, and the closer she got, the more she realized how very, very much she didn’t want to. Her stomach twisted and clenched, her heart pounded like the now-silenced beat that had been thrumming through her earbuds when Jenae had ripped them from her ears. Her heavy boots slowed on the sidewalk, until Jenae stopped too, just at the corner of the block.

“What’s the hold up, Kalli?”

What could she tell her? I’m sorry, I’ve changed my mind, I’m not really in the mood to show you how Claire died, maybe we can go for a soda instead?

“Just… give me a second.”

She pulled her arm free and dropped to a knee, carefully unlacing and retying one boot and then the other, making sure they were firm. Solid. Protecting. She’d be fine – and there’d be no more questions, after.

Standing, Kalli grabbed Jenae’s arm, and all but pulled her into motion again, thudding quickly past the several first houses on the block, toward the victorian that squatted in between a pair of ranches that looked like twins on either side of it. There didn’t seem to have been anybody living in the house since the night Claire was there, and Kalli found herself dryly unsurprised. Although the grass looked mowed, and the bushes still looked trimmed. Even the paint, which had been old when she was here before, had an unexpected sense of freshness to it although spots of flaking here and there told her it definitely hadn’t been painted.

“So we were here, with Claire,” she said without preamble, her boots thudding hollowly upon the steps as she mounted the porch. “Jordan figured out that if we reached between the boards, we could pull the door open just enough for someone to get in. And they- we dared her to go in and stay inside by herself. Not all night, even, just for a little while.”

The new boards were there, just like Jenae said, and yet… there should have been another one, and it was missing. It made it so that Kalli was able to reach between to find the old, carved metal doorknob. It should have been cold to the touch, but it was warm, even here out of the sunlight, and Kalli swallowed hard as she turned it and pulled.

The door opened without resistance, thudding against the inside of the boards nailed across the thick old doorframe, and there was a spot where, if one were so inclined, one could worm in between the boards and slip in through that open door, into the dark foyer beyond.

“So she went in, and we were out here on the porch. And for a while we were just talking, and sometimes knocking on the boards over the windows – you know, to just scare her. I swear to god, Jenae, all we wanted to do was scare her!” Her voice went high and tight with that confession, and she couldn’t drag her eyes away from the dark foyer space.

“That doesn’t sound like that bad a dare,” Jenae pointed out from her shoulder, leaning in past Kalli to squint in at the darkness inside the open door. “Even though that was kind of mean… trying to scare her. But it sounds funny. What HAPPENED, Kalli?”

“She started knocking back. Except… on all the windows at once.”

Jenae’s head whipped around, staring wide-eyed at Kalli for a minute, and then she let out an exasperated laugh and shoved playfully at Kalli’s shoulder.

“You butthead! I really want to know what happened, and you drag me over here for this campfire story?”

Kalli started to protest, but grinning wryly Jenae was already grabbing onto the boards so she could hoist herself and swing her feet through, wriggling past the boards and door to become a shadow in the foyer, her feet thudding gently upon the boards.

“You want to tell me what REALLY happened in here?” she challenged. Kalli’s hand tightened on the doorknob.

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Days of Grey: Day 5

“But it’s just a bunch of toys on cardboard.”

“It is and it isn’t. We’re up here looking down on it, see. Lincoln Logs, a piece of fabric draped over Rock ’em Sock ’em robots, a little old silver stereo missing a knob, sitting on top of a doll’s cabinet, some erector set pieces… it just looks like a mess. But it isn’t, I’m telling you.”

“I don’t see how it can be anything other than what it looks like. Didn’t you say your kid built this?”

“Yeah, yesterday when I thought she was napping. But you have to look at it differently, to really see what it is she did.”

“Differently how?”

“Come on, don’t be stupid. She’s a kid. She’s little. Belly down and take a look again, and tell me what you see.”

“This is ridiculous.”

“Just do it.”

“…holy- dude. Is this- did she build the docks?”

“Completely. The tent, the pilons, the cranes. It’s all there, right down to this lego big over here being that one last tie-up that nobody ever used.”

“That’s amazing! And also really messed up, man – what the hell were you doing, taking her THERE of all places?”

“That’s the thing. I’ve never taken her there. She’s never seen it. I’ve never taken her to Pike’s Acres, either, but she’s been carrying a lot of twigs and branches into her sandbox this morning.”

“You think… she’s building the circle?”

“I think she might be. And look, while you’re down there, you see the boat? Give it a nudge.”

“Holy fuck! How did it do that, – it’s on the carpet! It shouldn’t be bobbing like it’s in the water!”

“I KNOW, dammit! But she made it like this, and it does that… and if she manages to make Pike’s Acres?”

“Do you think?”

“Yeah. I think maybe she’s going to bring back the fairies.”

~~~

This was written as part of Days of Grey, a daily writing project in which anyone can participate. Just go follow the page. A prompt image will be posted to it each day throughout the month of February, meant to inspire bright, warm, happy fictions – or poetry, haikus, memoir essays, visual poetry – anything to get the mind focused on warmth and light and joy.

The Day Five image prompt is from Alexander Symonette, from GooglePlus.

 

Days of Grey: Day 4

When she was born, she slept much. Her cries when first she emerged were soft and quickly quieted when place in my arms, and when the midwife was left, I spent hours (tired though I was) contemplating her as I cleansed her skin, gently wiping the effluvia of her gestation from her soft translucent skin. There was barely any hair upon her scalp, and her hands balled up beneath her tiny chin.

They were waiting for me to declare her name, but one had not come to me yet. There was always a sign, among our people, that led a mother to the name of her child. Some names had great auspicion. Some bore ill-luck. Usually the name came whilst laboring, but nothing had happened to encourage me to bestow a name upon her. One would come to us, just as when I had born, the cry of a bird had earned me the name of Avis.

Despite the waiting outside, the village was quiet; I could faintly hear the sound of voices and the crackling of fire as I rested, and along with my own weariness decided night must have come. Indeed, no light spilled into my tent through the cleft between the flaps, left ajar by the midwife to let in air to sooth and cool me.

“Who are you, my sweet?” I murmured softly, running the cloth gingerly under the corner of her wee jaw.

My answer came in the form of another small creature entirely.

Through the open flaps, a moth flitted in. I half-noticed it, darting and sopping, fluttering along the interior of the walls, but moths frequently found their way indoors. I watched it rise toward the oil lamp that hung from the pole above us. But it did not rise to the lamp and circle the glass. It circled but once, and fluttered down like a cherry petal, to alight upon my sleeping daughter’s forehead.

There it rested, a pale, luminous blue-white, with great dark eyes at the base of its feathery antennae. Perhaps it was looking at me, but then it turned, minuscule feet ever so light upon my daughter’s skin as to not even begin to wake her. With its back to me, its wings swept open so sharply as to coat my daughter’s skin with a dusting of the pale powder from the underside of the wings, and its antennae swept in a wide arch before twitching in wee, arcane movements.

I was captivated by the pattern upon its wings. It was one of which I had heard, but never had seen; the interior of its swept-open wings were the same soft, luminescent blue as the outside, but decorated with a pattern of charcoal grey that resembled a single eye, gazing upon me. Somnium Tinea, the Dream Moth. These moths were so rare as to be creatures of legend, and it was said that those chosen by the moth could, in the light of the moon, see things that could not otherwise be seen: glimpses of the future, the truth behind lies and secrets. Paths to the Otherworld.

This one had come to us in the night, and chosen to land upon my unnamed daughter.

The cloth fluttered to the floor beside my cot, forgotten, as I lifted my hand to lay my fingertips gently against my daughter’s temple. “Tinea,” I whispered, naming her. At the word, the moth’s wing’s snapped sharply shut, and then it launched itself into the air, making for the doorway and disappearing into the night. It left behind, though, the thin dusting from its wings, and etched into it by its wee feet and feathered antennae was the same shape that had been hidden inside its wings. A new eye, upon my daughter’s forehead.

“Tinea,” I murmured again, and without stirring her eyes slid open, calm and dark, and she knew me.

~~~

This was written as part of Days of Grey, a daily writing project in which anyone can participate. Just go follow the page. A prompt image will be posted to it each day throughout the month of February, meant to inspire bright, warm, happy fictions – or poetry, haikus, memoir essays, visual poetry – anything to get the mind focused on warmth and light and joy.

The Day Four image prompt is from dendroica on Flickr, shared through a Creative Commons Attribution license. http://www.flickr.com/photos/dendroica/4824223505/ If you share or repost this image, please keep the attribution info intact.

Days of Grey: Day 3

The Birds of Blue are commonly mistaken for the Bluebird of Happiness. The mistake is easy and obvious, and happens almost as commonly as the creatures themselves come around – which, thankfully, is not very often. They travel in pairs, the Birds of Blue; they gravitate toward people who are too unrepentantly filled with joy of life and living, of being young and carefree and vital in a world that is often hard and grinding.

Two by two, the Birds of Blue find these people, and in the manner of any bird, they shit on what those people hold dear.

Not in the literal sense, mind you. The Birds of Blue show up and roost around the house of joyful people, and their milk goes too quickly sour, their yogurt spills, their bread becomes infested with weevils. They pick holes into all the fruit, and they tease cats into unused corners near windows most often left open in warm weather to let breezes through, until the cats in their irritation mark the area with their urine and leave it to grow fetid. They fly against windows to frighten babies. They knock down the laundry from the line. And should the joyful victim remain unrepentant, they will soon find themselves set upon by the creatures, attacked.

Only when one has been made miserable do the Birds of Blue move on – unless, by very rare chance, a Bluebird of Happiness appears to combat the problem.

The Bluebird of Happiness sings sweetly outside a baby’s window. It coaxes cats away from the fresh bottles of milk left upon the doorstep, and it pecks through the stems of the fruit highest in the tree or deepest in the bush so that it rolls upon the ground as sweet windfall. It plucks up the windblown woodtrash that fetches up against the house and in the flower garden to use for nesting.

One appeared to a woman, once, as the Birds of Blue were setting upon her, beginning to pluck at the sleeves of her gown and peck at the skin underneath. Her arms were outstretched, fluttering to try to shake them from her wrists, when the Bluebird found perch upon her elbow. It sang out, as the Birds of Blue squalled. It sang out, and she went quite still, singing that single sweet note back to the bird – a note of hopeful yearning.

Destruction and joy warred against each other for that woman, and fixed between them she went still, flesh frozen into wood, and the birds along with her. We make the carvings of her still, to honor the struggle between unrepentant joy and heartless cruelty – and to remember that a single bit of joy is more than a match for twice as much cruelty, for a heart that will strive for it.

~~~

This was written as part of Days of Grey, a daily writing project in which anyone can participate. Just go follow the page. A prompt image will be posted to it each day throughout the month of February, meant to inspire bright, warm, happy fictions – or poetry, haikus, memoir essays, visual poetry – anything to get the mind focused on warmth and light and joy.

The Day Three image prompt comes from 4nitsirk on Flickr via a Attribution-ShareAlike Creative Commons license. http://www.flickr.com/photos/4nitsirk/3279601932/ Per the license, if you repost/reshare the photo, please keep the attribution intact.

Days of Grey: Day 2

“What if we don’t make it?” Lauren’s voice was thin and crackling with the exhaustion we were all feeling, but it carried enough for most of the heads of our group to whip around in her direction; a few faces projected horror, but just as many reflected the terrified resignation in Lauren’s question.

For some reason she was looking at me. Like as if I would have some clue, just because I was the one who’d had a map of the area shoved in the pocket behind the seat in my car. The joys of being a packet who rarely cleaned, I’d actually had something still handing kicking around after the cell nets died and electrical systems went down, and one by one people’s mobile and tablet batteries wore out – not that the GPS was still working by then anyway.

“We’re all together, and it’s not that much farther. We’re GOING to make it, Lauren,” I growled, hating having to be the bitchy one, but the last thing we needed was for this to turn into some stupid What If discussion instead of all of us just continuing to haul ass. To their credit, nobody seemed interested in slowing down. As if anybody would want to, considering the things slouching and shuffling and burbling along behind us.

“But we’ve been walking for days!” she complained, and god help me I could have smacked her right there, if it hadn’t meant stopping and turning around. Every step had to be a step in the right direction, because my knee was a white-hot ball of agony from walking so much so suddenly, and my lower back was a study in strained muscles. I never did get into the whole hiking and backpacking thing as a kid, which is too bad. It’d be handy now to know how to balance what I was carrying a little better.

“Look – this sucks. You hurt, I hurt, we ALL hurt,” I snarled, sneakered feet trudging along across the grassy meadow that blanketed the hillside we were half-climbing, half-rounding. “But this is the one plan we’ve got right now, and the only alternative I can think of is to just stop and let them catch us.”

“Why don’t we?”

In spite of knowing better, my weary stride faltered, and I stopped, waiting for her to catch up to me before forcing my screaming thighs to lift my legs back into motion. “If you want to be a hot meal, fine. Hand off your bags and just sit your ass down. But I am not fucking done, and I’m not giving up. I never figured you for a quitter, Lauren.”

A few of the others had slowed or even halted nearby to listen to the exchange, and my stomach twisted. Keep walking, just keep walking…

“No, I suppose you didn’t,” she said flatly, and with a quirk at the corner of her mouth that was enigmatic, very nearly a smile. “You always DID want people to have your best qualities in them. Lead on,” she gestured, and we fell into step, some of the others trailing ahead of us.

According to the map it was just over the hill, but I didn’t even have it in me to try to get up in front, to make sure. All I could do was put a foot in front of a foot, and listen to what sounds might float back. Please, let it be there. Please let it be standing. Please, please.

I could see the wrought iron first, as I came over the crest of the hill, the pointed, fleur de lis tips of it thrust toward the sky atop the thick cement wall more than twice my own height – and there, where the old dirt road had wound up toward it from the valley, one side of the big double gate still stood open, men with fantastically large looking guns standing on either side of it, watching our silent company trudge through.

I slowed to a halt to watch everyone coming round and through, checking faces, counting heads, until there was nobody left but me, and one of the soldiers gave me a questioning look. “We’re the last ones. Nothing human left, now.”

“Right then. Let’s close this up.” I dragged my feet through the gate and turned to watch it getting pulled shut, the huge heavy slabs moving ponderously across the dirt; someone came forward with chains to loop through the metalwork at the top, and someone else had a bucket of mortar all ready to start slapping into the joins, reinforcing them.

We’d made it out – and nothing was going to follow us.
Funny. I’d never thought of guns as safety.

~~~

This was written as part of Days of Grey, a daily writing project in which anyone can participate. Just go follow the page. A prompt image will be posted to it each day throughout the month of February, meant to inspire bright, warm, happy fictions – or poetry, haikus, memoir essays, visual poetry – anything to get the mind focused on warmth and light and joy.

The Day Two image prompt comes from images_improbables on Flickr, via a Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs Creative Commons license.http://www.flickr.com/photos/images_improbables/6748409757/
If you repost the photo, please keep the attribution notice intact.

Days of Grey: Day 1

Put the kettle on
my darling
put the kettle on
over the smoldering fire
in the air so dry

Put the kettle on
my darling
let’s have tea

Put the kettle on
my darling
put the kettle on
in the sunlight coldly filtered
I’ve a book upon my knee

Put the kettle on
my darling
let’s have tea

Put the kettle on
my darling
put the kettle on
it shall sing of steamy tropics
steeping our exotic leaves

Put the kettle on
my darling
let’s have tea

Put the kettle on
my darling
put the kettle on
Our cups are clean and do not match
But hold their drink so well

Put the kettle on
my darling
let’s have tea

Put the kettle on
my darling
put the kettle on
I shall fill the plate with biscuits
and drape this afghan on your chair

Put the kettle on
my darling
if it so you please

 

~~~

This was written as part of Days of Grey, a daily writing project in which anyone can participate. Just go follow the page. A prompt image will be posted to it each day throughout the month of February, meant to inspire bright, warm, happy fictions – or poetry, haikus, memoir essays, visual poetry – anything to get the mind focused on warmth and light and joy.

 

The Day One image is from fukumix on Flickr, shared under an Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs Creative Commons license. The original image can be found at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/fukumix/4452576461/ Per the license, if you reshare this image along with what your write from this prompt, please keep the attribution info intact.

Book Review: Big Chills, by John McDonnell

I recently downloaded Big Chills, one of 8 books currently available from John McDonnell, from Amazon.com as part of a free promotion. Big Chillsis a collection of 9 pieces of horror flash fiction from this (according to the Amazon blurb) master of psychological horror.With a claim like that, I was very eager to dig into the book and see what was being serve up on the altar er, platter.

Flash fiction, for those of you unfamiliar with the term, is an ultra-short form of fiction writing that can be as small as under a hundred words (although that often falls into the subcategory of “drabble”), and up to no more than a thousand words. Obviously, therefore, that made this series of stories a quick read by form of length alone.

It was also a quick read for content. The first story, All The Time In The World, begins in the 1500s on a sugar plantation, in media res of a conflict between a Spanish plantation owner presented with an african slave prophet who is causing an uproar among the slaveworkers of his Canary Islands plantation. Urged by his priest, his solution is swift and brutal – but the retaliation that follows is equally as brutal, and with long-reaching consequences for such a short tale.

One thing that struck me as I read was the consistently recurring theme, from a fantasy kingdom with a giant to a parson’s clairvoyant wife in possession of a Thor’s Hammer necklace to a particularly snide babysitter, of revenge. In most of the stories, someone is done wrong, and in one way or another are made to pay a price for their crimes. Some tales, particularly the story of an aging former model with Beautiful Hands, accomplish this in such a way that you can perfectly imagine it as a tale being told while sitting around a s’mores-toasting campfire, while others such as The New Boy attain their resolution in a way that even an experience reader of horror and thrillers would not expect.

The New Boy as well as New Year are both tales that leave the reader almost with more questions than when the story began, and New Year in particular is one that I personally would love to see expanded into a longer work. The premise presented is incredibly engaging, and I desperately wanted more of it.

Quite likely my favorites in this volume are So Few Giants and The Bad Babysitter. So Few Giants is the only outright fantasy-set piece in the collection, and manages in quite a short time to accomplish several twists of who is the good guy, and who is the bad. The closing line, echoing the title, gives it a wonderfully cyclical feel, and leaves one to consider what constitutes a giant and conversely the smallness of mind and intent that plagues all too many people. The Bad Babysitter delighted me in dealing directly and unabashedly with children and monsters, and with a wonderful deconstruction in brief of what Satan is in terms of evil:

Melissa sat down on the couch. “It’s a primitive defense mechanism, actually. I’ve studied it. It makes people feel safer if they have this cartoon figure to give them an alibi when they do something wrong.”“Cartoon figure?”

“Yes. The long nose. The pointy beard. The horns. Like a Disney character, actually. It has nothing to do with real evil. We have more real evil in our basement than you’ll even find worshipping Satan. I still say you couldn’t go down our basement in the dark and stay there for a minute.”

It’s precisely this sort of wry, impudently cheeky sense of humor that really makes the collection, in my mind; set against the recurrent theme of revenge, it really underlines the horrors that happen to the victims and antagonists, and leaves the reader with a wonderfully smug sense of “I told you so.”

Ultimately, I quite enjoyed this collection, and look forward to reading more of Mr. McDonnell’s work.

 

Big Chills is available from Amazon for $2.99: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B005D2M72Y

John McDonnell’s blog: http://mcdonnellwrite.blogspot.com/

John McDonnell’s books on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/John-McDonnell/e/B004AXGYHQ

On Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/jaymack