Dienstag, 28. Dezember 2010

The zombie apocalypse

I guess it wasn't such a great idea after all. You know, we had this fan-tas-tic party going on, and Hugh was blitzed out of it. Like dead. Well, wasn't that bad. 'twas his house, after all. We partied on for a while - until the neighbors threatened to call the cops, that is - and then most of us went home. The rest decided to crash on the floor.

And then we had this idea with the ketchup bottle. Or the ketchup bottle fell and gave us that idea. Don't know which way. Suddenly everything was red and sticky. And all the people on the floor. And Marilyn laughed, "It looks like the zombie apocalypse!"

See? That's how it came about. We had fun, gooey stuff everywhere, it was a real mess. Looked really real, I can tell you. We had a blast. And a plan.

I shook Hugh to wake him up. "We got a problem, man! The zombies are here!"

He looked around wild-eyed, brain full of booze. Marilyn hid in the next room, peeping around the door frame, stifling her laughter with a fist in her mouth. I suppressed the urge to grin and said something about checking on the other rooms to make sure we were safe.

Best moment of my life.

Until Terry stirred and Hugh took the baseball bat to his skull. You gotta go for their brains. The zombies', I mean.

Freitag, 17. Dezember 2010

Jeanny

Boy, it's boring in here. And all the fumes! How I hate raspberries. That's what you get for not paying attention to the hole you crawl into for a good day's sleep. Stuck and nauseous.

Well, at least it's better than sitting out in the cold. We never had that much snow where I come from. Not that I miss home... too hot, too dry, and most of all, too boring. Guess I emigrated just in time. Spent some time here, messed around there, visited someplace altogether different. Wasted my youth playing pranks on unsuspecting travelers.

You know what? I had a great time. Especially back in Afghanistan, when that stupid goat herder literally tripped over me. That face!!! Almost popped his eyes out! Only because I was enjoying myself - naked, of course. He recovered soon enough.

People were so easy to scare back then! Nowadays they have TV, internet, all that strange stuff. You have to pull all kinds of tricks to impress them.

I think I'm feeling dizzy. If that hobo doesn't unscrew the bottle soon, his first wish better be that I don't puke all over him. And hey, stop shaking me!

Freitag, 10. Dezember 2010

Dark

Everything is dark around me, and although I know there should be light somewhere, I fail to see it. I feel my way using hands and feet, slowly, and I don't even know where I am going. Is this the path I set out to travel? Or have I gotten lost? Maybe I was abducted and left here, part of a strange hunt, mocking the struggle of life? The journey appeared to be easy, in the beginning, before the twists and turns and dead ends.

I imagine wild beasts lurking in the dark that is my everyday life, and try not to run. Running when you can't see where you are going is probably a bad idea. Still, there is no light.

If there were trees, they would be closing in on me now.

Donnerstag, 25. November 2010

Tessa

Tessa looks at me with her green eyes and waits for an answer. We have been best friends for as long as I can remember. Since my family moved from the country to the big city, where I knew no one and didn't have anyone to play.

I sigh. "Yes, I know. Happy?"

The doorbell saves her. Relieved, I answer the door. Peter is outside, with the guys and some chicks I don't know. They're carrying popcorn, pizza, beer and sodas. My part was renting the movies and making soup, and Tessa helped. She's a kitchen goddess.

This is what the Romans must have felt like when the barbarians were at their gates. My tiny, germ-free flat has never seen so many people at once. I usher them inside, feeling slightly embarassed at the lack of life. Peter gives me a hug and a quick kiss on the cheek. He knows I'm not comfortable displaying affection in public. My knight in shining armor, respecting my every wish.

Standing close to him, I rather feel than see his gaze wander down the hallway, where he meets Tessa's shamrock stare. "Hello there, who are you?"

She won't talk to him. Of course not.

"That's Tessa", I explain, reluctantly. "She's a product of my imagination. Shall we get the movie started?"

Freitag, 19. November 2010

Mirror Child

She knows that she is damaged, after all they've done to her. Like the puppet with one arm at the flea market, which no one wanted.

"I told you", her mother had said, "who wants a damaged toy?"

And now it's her no one wants. When people look into her eyes, they do not see their own, clear reflection. She's like a broken mirror. Shards everywhere, used to protect herself, to hurt. Their images are twisted, more true than reality, closer to themselves than their reflections.

They leave her alone, and finally she is safe.

Broken mirrors can do magic.

Donnerstag, 11. November 2010

Thief of hearts

Living with a sprite wasn't easy. Especially on the days that Estrella came to visit.

Laurell shook her head. Estrella. No surprise her sister was so - special. She typed some more numbers into her worksheet, then closed her notebook. The desk was cluttered with all kinds of papers. Today, however, she couldn't blame it on Jack.

Jack was her sprite. And he was in love with Estrella. Only unfortunately Estrella couldn't (or maybe pretended not to) see him. Just as the fancy names went to the younger members of the family, the spooky gifts went to the oldest of each new branch. Laurel imagined herself as the defender of family traditions, but sometimes she thought she could do without.

She grabbed her half empty tea mug, carried it over to the dark kitchen and wondered where Jack was. Usually he stayed by her side pretty much all day, as long as she stayed inside. Laurell guessed he was somehow bound to the house she was born in, he had been her companion since childhood. His pointy ears and sharp white teeth made him a valuable friend - he'd willingly play all kinds of parts when enacting fairytales, and he never hesitated to defend Laurell. Against bullies, stray dogs, the mailman (on that one occasion where she had opened the door in her bathrobe and things had got a little bit out of hand). Sometimes he tried to help with the housework, too, but these efforts usually went wrong and left them with a bigger mess than before.

This morning, Jack had put on his best suit - his only suit, that is - and tried to comb the mess of greenish hair on his triangular skull. He had polished his nose to a shine and tried to be a good sprite. When Estrella walked down the garden path that led to the back door - she was superstitious and never entered through the front door - the most beautiful autumn roses were in full bloom, and Laurell wondered how he had done it. She was not sure what the full extent of Jack's powers was, and today it annoyed her. Everybody thought her younger sister was the family treasure. Even her old friend.

Estrella hadn't stayed long. She had finally gotten over her last desastrous affair with a married banker, gone to the hairdresser before coming to visit her sister and was on her way to a posh club somewhere a few miles down the road. "I only have to pick up my wallet on the way", she smiled as she sipped her tea, " and maybe catch some sleep. I've heard the guys at Ipanema Lounge are hot!" Her hair, once blond and now firy red, fell in gentle waves over her shoulder and had the audacity to glow in the afternoon sunlight.

The sisters wasted some time on smalltalk, and then Laurell went back into her office while Estrella went to kick-start her night life.

And that was the last time Laurell had seen Jack. Now that she thought about it, it worried her... but only for a moment, until she heard something rustling under the stairs. Jack had only taken a nap in his nest, after all.

Gently, she knocked on the wood, "Hey, old pal. You're up for some dinner?"

Something was odd. Jack didn't react. She could see him breathing, but he remained curled into a tight ball.

"You okay?"

Slowly, the sprite lifted his head and looked at her. His face was sprinkled with something dark, as was his shirt, and he smelled... metallic.

"It's your fault!" he sobbed. "You told me to do it! You said I could steal her heart!"

Inside Laurell's chest, something froze. Slowly she stepped back, her eyes fixed on the miserable figure sitting in the darkness. She couldn't make out any colors. Her breath seemed too loud - it hissed in her ears while she fumbled for her phone - an oldfashioned construction with a cord, so the receiver couldn't get lost - and dialed Estrella's phone number from memory.

Absent-minded, she wrapped the cord around her wrist as she waited. Somehow she knew that her sister wouldn't pick up the phone.

Donnerstag, 4. November 2010

This is me

There is nothing left to say, and so I keep quiet as I watch him leave. The flowers he sent me yesterday are lying on the floor, surrounded by puddles of water and white glass shards. My favorite vase. I will have to get a new one.

Of course he threw a fit. Hadn't he done enough for me? Didn't I love him anymore? Every guy acts like that. Heroes, broken and devastated. All of them. It's inevitable.

A smile hides just inside my ruby lips, barely waiting until the door closes.

It's part of the fun in my life.

Samstag, 30. Oktober 2010

The Story

It was late already. Outside the sky was - no, not black. Dark purple stretched over the valley, with specks of clouds and a thin sliver of silver moon. Theresa knew the scenery by heart, and she hated it. She spent almost every night at the office, between stacks of paper, looking for THE STORY. Most things her reporters brought her, however, were rubbish.

Tonight was no different. The sad leftovers of a Subway sandwich lay on the desk, pushed aside so Theresa could go through the stories that had been handed in late. Her phone was right next to her, with the printers' phone on speed dial, just in case she actually founf THE STORY. But that was rather unlikely. They had the usual U.F.O. sightings, someone claiming to be a werehyena, a haunted house and a conspiracy involving tab water and alien microbes. This was pretty strange even by their standards.

Theresa believed that the truth was out there, somewhere, beneath that purple night sky, but so far she hadn't seen any of it. Since starting as a young and excited reporter here at "USA Truth", she had been looking for the real thing. And there had been good stories, but nothing that wouldn't make her former class mates laugh. Now she was closer to 40 than 30, and had nothing to show for her life. Over the last few months, she had felt herself become increasingly bitter and desperate, and this morning she had detected the first hint of gray hidden between her deer-colored ringlets.

A knock at the door, and only a moment later Peter pushed his head into his room.

"Yeah?"

"Hi Theresa." He coughed. "You know, I wanted to talk to you about that story I handed in last week..."

Theresa sighed. "We had that already. No. No way am I going to print this short before Halloween. We will be the laughing stock of the press."

Peter looked sad. In fact, he didn't look good at all. His skin had a yellowish wax appearance, and his eyes had sunken back into his skull so far they were hardly visible in the weak light of her desk lamp.

"You know what", she said and pushed her chair back, "we should both go home." She knew that she wouldn't head straight home, but do her routine at the gym first. All this fastfood was starting to take its toll. She wanted to look good and happy when the old gang reunited in December.

Peter shook his head. "No, Theresa, you gotta listen. I've done some more research over at the ruins. And my informant was right, there are dozens of oildrums with strange stuff in them!"

She stopped in her tracks, halfway bent down to pick up her purse. "Tell me you didn't open them." Stories about toxic waste always increased their circulation, but she rather liked Peter. Although he certainly was stupid enough to take a sip of any strange glowing liquid, just to know what it would do.

"No, I didn't... one of it was leaking, that's how my informant knew about it. I took samples and brought them to different labs to be tested."

Great. Just great. In her head a new headline appeared, "USA TRUTH REPORTER SPREADS DEATH THROUGH VALLEY!"

She looked at him, her stomach tight. Considering his looks, that stuff had not been orange juice. "Okay, and now what?"

"Well, the labs haven't answered my calls, and when I went there, no one answered the door." Peter moved in closer, his feeth eavy, gait tired. "My informant seems to have disappeared as well."

Maybe he was onto something after all. "Okay, I give in." Theresa pressed the speed dial button. "Your story will make front page tomorrow. I want it down at the press in ten minutes. But you have to make some changes. No way are we going to print anything containing the word 'zombie' in the headline."

Peter grinned. His teeth glistened, stained and crooked. As he came closer, his body odour crept through the room. Definitely unhealthy, she'd take him to the hospital herself right away.

"Now jump back to your office! They're waiting!" Theresa forced a smile on her face. She'd have herself tested as well, just to be sure. "Tell you what, after that we're grabbing a snack somewhere to celebrate, okay?"

"Sound great", Peter's grin widened, "can I have your liver?"

Sonntag, 24. Oktober 2010

Sorry!!!

Sorry I haven't been writing much these last few weeks... but I am not dead! And no one's after me, either (as far as I know). I promise proper writing will resume as soon as things are a little more relaxed around here!

Freitag, 22. Oktober 2010

Cold

"No, Thaddius, get off that table. Now!"

Thaddius was not impressed. He sat on the breakfast table, lapping the remaining drops of milk from her cereal bowl. His orange tail curled around his legs like a content furry snake.

Sophia clapped, sharp - and the cat was gone. She smiled, despite her lack of sleep and the tedious tasks ahead of her. It worked every time. From the moment they had got him, Thaddius had been a scaredy cat. Every lout sound, every unexpected movement sent him under the sofa, fast like a lightning. He would sit there for hours, whiskers twitching, waiting until he was completely sure the area was safe once more. Sophia had never seen a cat that was this easily frightened. Hence the name Thaddius - she had thought it was hilarious.

There was barely enough time to put everything away, grab a yogurt and run for the subway. A quick glance outside - pale October sun, a few clouds, yellow and brown leaves everywhere. She had better take the long brown scarf today - the least thing she needed right now was yet another cold. Sophia grabbed the empty cereal bowl, put it in the sink and opened the fridge. She ignored the bread crumbs her father had left on the table. There'd be time for thorough cleaning when she returned home. Right now, all she had time for was grabbing some strawberry yogurt from the back of the fridge.

"Sophia, are you ready? You're running late!" her mother yelled from the bedroom.

"I know!" Sophia yelled back. she hit her head on the door frame of the fridge and cursed softly.

Thaddius, curious as any cat, approached the open fridge for new adventures. He looked inside, then suddenly hissed and dashed from the kitchen.

"Little coward!" Sophia called after him, then bent down once more for her yogurt. She'd never make it till lunch without a snack. That stupid cat, what dangers could there be in a fridge, for God's sake?

She froze with shock, and everything around her turned cold. It was looking at her, and not with friendly eyes.

Freitag, 8. Oktober 2010

Research

As everybody knows, research for writers, for a huge part, consists of watching people. You can't make things up in your mind all the time. You have to have real people, to observe and steal their behavior.

Sometimes it's enough to sit in a café and relax, keep your eyes open. But other scenarios demand more effort on the writer's part.

And this is why I am sitting here, in my basement. The basement is cool and dark, and I like working here. There's no telling how much time has gone by, and the others know never to disturb me down here. In the early years my family used the basement to put their stuff here, but in the meantime everything has been moved to the garage, and I have plenty of room.

I watch, for a while, closely, and then I continue typing.

... The huge needles sticking out of his body glinted in the harsh neon light, and the blood pouring down his white body appeared chemical. The colors were too intense for words, and it was no longer necessary to talk. The pleas had ceased...

Freitag, 1. Oktober 2010

Niagara Falls

The ticket to Canada had cost almost all his remaining money. After two nights at the hotel and riding the boat around the Falls he now was completely broke. But it didn't matter anymore.

When Laura had left him, she had taken everything with her. Clothes, furniture, pictures - even the baby's room, complete with carpet and fairy tale curtains. She had left nothing in return, especially no note saying, "I am sorry, I couldn't cope with the situation" or "I promise I'll be back".

He had spent the first three days in bed. The first day, he had called his boss and mumbled something about a bad cold. There had been some old cheese in the fridge for dinner.

The second day, he had finished off all his beer.

On the third day, when his boss had called him back, worried something might be seriously wrong, he had shouted at him and called him a stupid prick and had put down the receiver without waiting for the boss to fire him. Then he had gone to the bank, taken all his remaining money and boarded a plane to Canada.

He had always wanted to see Niagara Falls. Ever since he had first watched a documentary about it on TV. He thought it was only appropriate to at least fulfill this dream of his before it was over.

The experience had been disappointing. The weather had been bad, and in his imagination everything had been bigger. After the boat ride, he had returned to his room, wet as a surfing chipmunk, and had gone to bed in his dirty clothes. The shoes stood in the middle of the room, looking like sad baby seals.

Another morning came, and the rain was still there. Surely it had overstayed its welcome. But there was nothing to be done about it. This was the day. He sneaked out of the room, quietly, using the emergency exits, since he couldn't pay his full bill. It was early in the morning, the sky a dark gray, and there was hardly anybody about. He took the meandering path down to the Falls, where you were supposed to have the best view. Walking through the rain, he let all the "what ifs" pass through his memory once more.

What if they hadn't met.

What if the baby had been alive.

What if they had talked to each other.

Each of them ugly and demanding and pointing at him, shouting, "You failed! It's your fault!"

The water looked like a blanket cascading over the shoulder of the Falls. He imagined the Falls to be a fat, sleeping lady, slightly stirring in her sleep. It must be cold, sleeping here, out in the open. And with the dreadful weather!

The roaring of the water drowned out his thoughts, and he felt a strange peace settling inside him. Maybe this wasn't the day.

Maybe this was another day.

Freitag, 24. September 2010

Dripping

There is a cute but ordinary village somewhere between the fields. Happy families, sad families, singles. Children play in the backyards or meet at street corners for mor mischief. You see bicycles and roller skaters, and a few cars.

Over centuries, the area was considered to be a kind of treasure chest. Salt was wrestled from the ground, brought to the surface and cleaned, and sold on for high prices. It was dangerous work and an easy way to get rich. The ground is drilled full of holes, like Swiss cheese. But everything is stable, there's barely any geological movement. The people here are familiar with the history of the place. The houses have been built to withstand the changes. They have been assured it's harmless.

These are normal people with normal lives. They came here for everyday experiences. The shop in the center of the village has been here for many years, and although modern supermarkets offer their items at lower prices and have greater variety on the shelves, most people stay here for groceries. It's a friendly neighborhood, and people watch out for each other. The next bigger town is not too far away - with good schools, a cinema, shopping malls and a university clinic. This is good, the children in the village tend to be ill.

On most days, the sun is shining. There's a forest to the east, with trees older than the church around which the village was built. A river runs through it, circles the village and resumes its way to the sea.

It is the perfect place to be happy.

Yet, someone has put something in the ground. Not secretly - there have been announcements and discussions. The decisions had been subject to intense political debate. Experts have come and assured that the people in the village would be perfectly safe.

And they had no reason not to believe them.

Now water is eating its way through the layers of salt and stone, into the caves, and through the layers of metal containing what was put down here. Changes are coming.

They said it was safe.

Freitag, 17. September 2010

Special Services

Tanya sat at the hotel bar, eyeing her client. This was going to be a good job. She got to do what she could best, and payment was much better than what she had gotten while working for that special task force. Most of all, the people looked much more stylish. Uniforms only got you so far. Sometimes she wore a long evening dress which clung to her trained body like a snake's skin. Today, she had decided on plain dark blue jeans, combat boots and a golden top with a revealing neckline. She knew the colors complimented her tan and her hazel green eyes.

Now she sent her chestnut hair flying over her shoulder, where it came to lie brushing the black leather of her biker's jacket. She had removed everything from her clothes which might blink when catching stray rays of light, including the fancy buckles that came with the shoes, and the Honda CBR600RR waiting outside was a custom job, all matted black. Tanya liked to travel invisible. It made doing her job so much easier.

The client seemed nervous. They had exchanged fancy fantasy names, and now he adressed her, "Miss Delila, could you... uhm, I mean, could you tell me a bit more about your expertise?" His round face sweated and turned bright red, like a fire extinguisher. Tanya knew this kind of guy. Rich, well-educated, they made it a big secret when hiring her services, and felt guilty all the time. Well, if they preferred to do so... after all, it was a jungle out there, and if you wanted to survive, you had to eat whatever didn't eat you first.

"You will understand, Mr. Smith", how very imaginative, "that I can't go into great detail. But let me assure you, I was trained by the best. We operated in Iraq and Afghanistan, with a special unit aiming to bring in the most wanted officials, terrorists and taliban. My body count is almost 100%."

He raised an eyebrow. "Almost?"

Tanya continued, ignoring his objection, "Another of my fields of expertise is - getting answers. Do you expect me to give more detail or will you trust me and be satisfied with the results?"

"One more question, if I may."

"Go ahead."

"Why did you go freelance?"

"The money's better, and I only travel if I want to." She sipped her Golden Cadillac, her eyes never leaving his face. This was the moment where they made up your mind.

"Did you say, half now and half after the job is finished?"

"Exactly", she purred, "and feel free to add a bonus if you consider it deserved. Would you like to go upstairs to discuss the details?"

They rode the elevator in silence, up to the top floor. Tanya's eyes took in every detail. The expensive camel-colored carpets, which silenced their steps. Live plants, behind which it was easy to hide. Anonymous-looking doors, each leading to a suite the size of an upper-class downtown apartment. She followed her client to his door, always a step behind him. She knew this made him nervous, but she felt he deserved a tiny taste of what he had bought himself into.

The door opened, and she nodded her approval. The best taste money could buy. Much different from the holes in which she had done her job - electric shocks, threats, infamous waterboarding. She knew more than a dozen ways of killing a person with nothing but the harmless things in this room. Slowly, she took of her leather jacket.

"Now, would you like to start?" Her voice changed, from sweet and cultivated to quiet and threatening. "On your knees, now!"

Without further question, the guy dropped to his knees.

Tanya circled him, like a shark playing with its prey. "I know you have been a very bad boy."

"Yes." He licked his lips.

"Yes what?"

"Yes, Mistress." His voice was but a whisper. This one was going to be fun.

Donnerstag, 9. September 2010

Believes

All the long years they had been married, and Walter's hypochondria had never been as bad as this.

He lay on his bed, pale and sweating, and the doctor had said it wouldn't take long now and there was nothing to be done. So Fran knelt next to his bed, holding his hand and looking at him, silent.

You know, Walter believed he had been cursed. By Miss Blythom, the old hag living next door. No one liked that woman. She had been enraged by Fran's cat Pirate doing his business in her garden, between rosemary and thyme. There had been several angry letters, some shouting and finally a dead cat, lying in front of their house one morning when Walter came out to pick up the newspaper.

Of course he had gone next door immediately. Fran had tried to stop him - maybe Pirate had been run over by a car, after all - but he had not been convinced. And when Mrs. Blythom opened the door, in her black morning gown neatly tied over her long white night gown, she had pointed two claw-like fingers at him, given him the "evil stare" and started laughing.

Walter had stopped dead in his tracks, the dead cat hanging from his limp arm like a forgotten purse he had tried to return to the wrong person, the blood draining from his face. He had turned around with strange staccato movements, gone home and straight to their marital bed.

That had been one week ago. He hadn't gotten up once, and the sheets were stained with sweat and urine. The doctor, of course, hadn't found anything. And now Fran watched, helplessly, as her husband died.

Fifty-three years of marriage, mostly happy, no children, all in all half a dozen cats. Of course she could have told him that magic didn't exist, and that he was imagining it all, like back when he had been convinced he suffered from tuberculosis and had prepared a room in the basement for his self-imposed quarantaine. But she knew it was useless.

She could as well have told him she knew the banning spell, from her grandmother, but she had had to promise him, when they married, that she would not dabble in these "irrational folk believes" anymore and that she would get rid of those strange symbols scattered about her room back at her mother's place. And Fran kept her promises.

Carefully, she got up and closed his eyes with trembling fingers. Then she went downstairs to prepare herself a nice cup of tea. After that, she would figure out how to pay that old hag back. No one killed her loved ones and got away.

Too bad Walter had never believed her.

Donnerstag, 2. September 2010

Incantation

They were far into their third bottle of Martini, when the idea materialized from Josephine's cigarette smoke. Later, none of them would be able to say where it came from, and without further arrangements they decided never to speak of it.

Josephine looked at her lap, where her delicate hands lay neatly folded, like sleeping butterflies. "I c-canot bellllllieve hediddis." Her language was maybe a tiny bit slurred around the edges. She was not drunk, that she knew. Only misbehaved women got drunk. They were socializing. Just good friends talking and letting off steam.

Sara lifted her tumbler in a salute to the absent adulterer. "May his... balls freeze to a lamppost!" She still spoke quite articulate, although her brain seemed a bit slow tonight when forming words and sentences. Her skirt had ridden up her long legs, leaving something resembling a wide black belt to cover her most delicious curves. The Lasagna stains were hardly visible on the burgundy red blouse, as was the red wine they had ordered with their dinner.

Carla took a swig straight from the bottle. They had no ice left anyway. "No, he des-deserves worse. Being knott'd to the lamppost with his man junk." The black dress hid most of the flesh she had acquired over the last decade, chasing Mister Perfect and eating in cheap restaurants.

"That would be a - a hell of a job, drawing out that t-tiny prick enough for a good knot." Josephine looked at her empty glass. She felt tipsy, she admitted. And sad. And angry. All at the same. Her head was like a caroussel.

Then the idea appeared.

Fifteen minutes later everything was set up in Carla's attick. The chalk circle, the candles, rain water and a bowl of sea salt. Carla had gotten several pentagram pendants and urged her friends to wear them. They laughed a lot, flipping through grimoires which had found strange ways into Carla's possession. "Here, thisssshould do nice." Sara pointed at a page with a pretzel stick.

"Let me see", Carla read the spell carefully. "A fire demon. Yeah, we can work with that." She took a piece of paper and took notes, and meanwhile the women emptied the fourth bottle of Martini and started a fifth. They had still some more in store. Preparation was crucial.

The incense stank. Together with the cigarette smoke and the alcohol it created a magical atmosphere, where nothing seemed quite real. With surprisingly sober voice, Carla took on the invocation. The smoke thickened, and Josephine imagined seeing a shape in the middle of the circle. She glanced at Sara, who had her eyes closed and was swaying gently.

They didn't believe in all this stuff. Hadn't even believed in it when they were teenagers. Carla kept collecting things and would sometimes invite them over for tarot readings or séances, but this was reality, after all. Well, at least it helped her let off some steam. Tomorrow, she would drive home, pack her stuff and move back in with her mother. As soon as she would be sober. She heard a laugh and decided it must be Carla's, although she couldn't remember her friend sounding so sexy. Or malicious.

The couch was uncomfortable, and after only four hours of sleep Josephine was not sure if she was sober and miserable or perhaps still drunk and, apart from that, perfectly fine. She had to hurry if she wanted to be at the office in time. Traffic behaving, she might even be able to take a quick shower. With all that smoke and stuff she probably smelled like a night club.

Sara and Carla were still asleep, but the timer of the coffee maker had been set, and the smell helped with the headache. Josephine got a refill, looked down at her wrinkled pantsuit and grabbed her car keys. She would return the cup the next time they met. They should do these women things more often anyway. Carefully, she slid into the driver's seat, turned the keys and backed out of the driveway. Her home was less than thirty minutes away.

Or would have been, had it still existed. The fire brigade was swarming all over the premises, and curious neighbours lined the streets. There were paramedics as well, but they were in no hurry. Either things had turned out better than expected, or worse.

An elderly woman came running towards her as soon as she noticed Josephine's car. "Thank God, there you are! I had feared you were inside!"

"What - what happened?" Josephine's brain refused to answer that question itself.

A policeman came over. "Please drive on, there's nothing going on here."

"But - but that's my house!"

"Oh, I'm sorry to hear that, Ma'am." He looked at her. "You're lucky. The neighbours say they saw two people coming home last night, and they were almost certain the female was you. We're still looking for the second body." He was very young and obviously had never given the bad news to the bereaved. "I am sorry for your loss", he added, like an afterthought. Then he waved for the paramedics, made sure they came their way, and left her in her car.

Josephine looked at her house in horror. She should call Carla. This was reality, after all.

Freitag, 27. August 2010

In the deep

[Over at 52 Weeks of Wordage I found a nice exercise: Write the last paragraph to a short story where you only have the opening. I did, and then I started wondering what happened inbetween. We all know where this leads, don't we...]

"A short story begins with these two lines:
Sometimes, out on the boat, she wanted to tell Louise.
This was before Louise got the tattoo on her shoulder.

Write the last paragraph of the story."


The tattoo was beautiful, if you liked tattoos, simple and elegant and black. A few curves dancing around each other. Louise had gotten it for their first anniversary, and she had been so escited. "Mary, come with me, please! I am scared shitless! How am I supposed to let them finish the job?" Since Patrick had been away for a few weeks on a job, there had been plenty of time. By the time he returned, he was delighted, he lifted Louise up and kissed her in front of everybody and smiled. By that time, everything was healed.

Maybe not everything. Mary couldn't help looking at the lines when they were outside, when they went to the lake to swim or lie in the sun, or when they went shopping and Louise tried on dresses. Her skin was thoroughly tanned and smooth, like only girls' skin can be smooth, and the little scar on her right thigh rather added to her beauty instead of diminishing it.

Mary and Louise had been friends for as long as they could remember. Their families lived right next to each other, with a huge lawn separating the houses, and they had played together and explored the woods and the banks of the river, and as they had grown up, they had spent most of their summers at the lake.

Mary, who was tall and had blond ringlets and countless freckles, admired Louise for her fairy-like beauty. She had defended her against the boys at school, who considered Louise to be too girlish and quiet to be left alone, and repaired her old bike whenever it decided to break down on their excursions. She felt protective and sometimes jokingly referred to herself as "Louise's mother bear". Sometimes when they slept at one of their parents' places together, Mary would brush Louise's black hair until the smaller girl fell asleep, and then would sit for hours without moving, Louise's head in her lap, and think about nothing in particular.

They grew up together, and short time before her sixteenth birthday, Louise met Patrick. He was her first boyfriend, and Louise, most likely without intending to or even realizing it, started to neglect Mary. Or that was the way Mary saw it. Even when they met, Louise would talk about nothing else, and often she would cancel their excursions to the lake because Patrick had plans for the day. And now she had that tattoo.

One day, a few weeks after the anniversary, Mary invited Louise to the lake. She felt that, since Patrick was away to see his grand parents, they could share an afternoon, like they had done before. So they grabbed their bikes and set out for a day filled with adventures.

That afternoon, while they were lying in the sun, Mary raised her head and looked Louise straight in the eyes. This was going to be difficult. "There is something I have to tell you."

Louise yawned and turned around to face her friend. "Why so serious?" She looked up at the cerulean sky above them. "Isn't this a beautiful day? I feel as if it's the one day we'll remember when we look back on our youth. We'll be sitting on the sofa, two old and wrinkled grannies, and -"

"Louise." Mary hesitated. Then she changed her mind. "You know, the other night, when you went shopping in Smyteville with your mother..."

"Yeah?"

"I saw Patrick. In town. With another girl."

Louise's eyes widened. "You saw what?"

"They were laughing and holding hands."

"No, it's not what you think. Maybe... maybe she is his cousin?"

Mary sat up, leaned forward and touched her friend's shoulder. "Louise, they were kissing."

No reply.

Mary sighed. "I am so sorry."

Louise remained silent for a long time. Then she stood up, slowly, gathered her belongings and left. Mary followed her friend with her eyes for as long as possible, but she stayed behind, and her stomach felt as if it was filled with stones.

That was the end of Patrick and Louise. There was a huge fight and some gossiping around town, but they avoided each other, and after a few weeks, when summer prepared to leave, the unfortunate outturn of their love affair had been buried beneath piles of drinking women, cheating husbands and the discussion about who had stolen the money from the offertory box.

Louise went to see a specialist, and soon there was no visible memory of her first love left. The spot on her shoulder was soft and pink and raw, and she did not smile as much as she used to. But Mary was convinced that this, too would pass. She had read about teenage couples, and this kind of thing never seemed to last for long. Their friendship, on the other hand... yes, they'd still be together when they were old and ugly. She decided to take Louise on a boat trip on the lake, and after some convincing, her friend agreed. They packed a picknick basket and left very early, when the mist was still clinging to the long grass and the branches.

"The boat was softly rocking on the lake, and the dragonflies flitting over the surface looked like sparkling spirits. The raw patch of skin on Louise's skin had finally started to heal. Mary inhaled, tasted the last crumbs of summer, and felt sadness descend upon her shoulders."

Freitag, 20. August 2010

Blown away

Ye know, it's a bad thing, what happened to my brothers. But, ye know, I told them. "You have to have strong defenses. None of that hoola straw walls. Whatcha gonna do, dance with it?" They laughed at me, but I knew they were in for some trouble. Of course, they were ready for business much faster than I was, their places more exotic and outstanding, but then, what good did it do them?

Meanwhile I was busy minding my own business. Carrying bricks, finding the best roof tiles, mixing mortar. You have to do the things you have to do, right? The hoola hut was destroyed, the other one as well, and my brothers disappeared. I mourned, and I kept on working. There were many things to be done before Big Bad found me.

"Hey, Fatty, get out of there!"

"Get lost!" I shouted, safe behind my brick walls. My fingers kept fiddling with the wires.

"Save us the trouble, we know how it's gonna end!"

"Really?" If he thought I had learned nothing from my brothers' fate, he was in for a surprise. Quietly, I snuck out the back door. My heart was racing. What if he had someone waiting for me?

Ye know, only one way to find out.

... The back alley was empty. I left out a breath I hadn't known I was holding. It was a windy day, and the smells of building rode on the air. I had chosen this place carefully. Not too far away from the city, but not too close to my neighbors, either. Made the kind of business I was going for much easier to run. Ye know, I'm planning on meddling with meat. Girl meat. Eldest profession, never let a man down who was depending on it. But first I had to get rid of Big Bad. Nasty bully he was, always trying to press his share from other people's work.

"Whatcha trying to do, buddy, eh?" I shouted as loud as I could, trying to make him believe I was still inside. Then I ran, and as soon as I thought I was safe, I pressed the button.

The explosion happened as neat as a hollywood movie. A hairy paw was all that was left of Big Bad. The police never thought to check into the matter. Some folks are better left to themselves.

You didn't think I would let him blow away my hut?

Freitag, 6. August 2010

Starved

The shower is too hot, as always. Ancient plumbing, probably from the old Egypts. The bathroom is tiny. And there are huge mountains of dirty laundry. Where the heck do they come from? I think I may have a laundry infestation. Hopefully the bug busters have something for that.

I should take them all outside and burn them. There's lots of things I'd like to burn right now.

See? I am a good girl. I could protect the environment by not doing laundry, save energy by warming myself at the laundry campfire (and oh the fumes!) and support economy by buying new clothes every week.

Water still too hot. I play with the faucets and step into the now ice cold shower. Gasp. Not much of an improvement. My nipples jump to attention. I hope they are enjoying themselves. Either lobster or ice statue. Great. I hurry to get the dirt off of me. It was a crappy day. Problems at the office, and as usual it wasn't the clients' fault. It never is, did you know that? I had to cancel the doctor's appointment to still get everything ready in time. And it would be so good to get a definite answer. I need to plan ahead, either for me - or for us.

My eyes catch a spider in the upper corner of the bathroom, right over the sink. She is sitting in her net, really still, surrounded by tiny black dots. I wonder if its her offspring or food, stashed away for worse days. Well, in the end it's probably the same.

Mittwoch, 4. August 2010

Dishes

"Why didn't you make me do the dishes last night?"

- "Because you said you were tired."

- "Damn. I'm friggin' lazy sometimes. You must not listen to me when I say something that sounds tempting... Hmm. Can't we do the dishes tomorrow?"

- "That's what you said last night. And right now you told me to ignore your temptress ways."

- "And what if I tempt you in other ways?"

- "No chance. Come on, let's do it. It's only twenty minutes of work."

- "But I don't want to. How about burning down the flat?"

- "Honey, we *like* living here."

- "Drat. I knew there was something important..."

Freitag, 30. Juli 2010

Around the world

He is one of those people you could listen to for hours. Whatever place in the world you ask him about, he knows. Faraway islands, gigantic cities, mountains, oceans, caves. The world really is his shell. He knows what you can see there, talks about the sensations and experiences, has tiny anecdotes ready for your personal amusement. Is it history you are interested in? Geography? Economy? He knows it all.

A day at the café with him is like traveling around the world in one afternoon. He will talk about the white beaches of Thailand or the Aurora Borealis, as you may only see it in Greenland during the winter months. While enchanting you with his knowledge, he will drink cup after cup of Oriental coffee, with lots of sugar and a dollop of real cream. I have seen strangers stop and sit down at his table, buying him cup after cup of his favorite beverage, eagerly waiting for his next story.

He loves telling his stories. And when the skies turn dark, he will turn around his wheelchair and carefully navigate back home. This is all he has. He has been this way since birth. He has never left this part of town. Hard to believe he only ever leaves his flat for coffee.

Dienstag, 27. Juli 2010

Movie

[I apologize in advance if the following story should offend someone. Originally, the title was a different one, but it would have given away too much. Enjoy.]



The moaning from the next room sounds almost genuine. In here, it’s colder, and there is hardly any light. Martina can hear the camera guy shouting something – Jeff probably has lost his act again. It’s difficult for the man to do his part, she knows. And on a day like this… Maybe they should all take a break. She clasps her water bottle. There are water drops collecting on the smooth surface. It fits her hand perfectly. This is the main reason she buys this water brand.

The blanket does a poor job keeping the cold away from her nude body. She has been sweating in front of the cameras and all the big lights. Twenty minutes of filming sometimes feel more exhausting than a complete workout. At least she doesn’t feel as guilty if the whole crew goes to the fast food parlor afterwards. She loves socializing, and if it requires an unhealthy meal now and again… she can do this, as long as she pays attention to her overall balance. Mustn’t forget, her body is the main source of her income. Maybe she should take a shower before she has to be on scene again – she likes being fresh and clean for her partners, even if they have already had some together action on that day. The job is hard enough as it is already. She even takes the time to brush her teeth after every snack – or oral action.

Her mother must never find out about her job, and she knows it. Fortunately, this is not the kind of movie the old lady would be caught watching. It would interfere with her attempt to catapult her soul into heaven. Besides, she does not like all this “dirty, uncomfortable physical stuff”. And that’s fine, since somebody has to earn money to pay the rent, and university fees… Martina knows she is not bright enough to win a scholarship, but she wants to be a social worker, she wants to make a difference. Her family thinks she does some minor job for a professor, sorting magazines and stuff, typing letters. Martina does not think of it as a lie, it’s rather an act of mercy. After all, there surely are professors watching. She dreads the day when someone at university might recognize her.

With a buzz, the loudspeakers in the upper corners of every room come to life. “Everybody on the shooting range for the big final. I want no messy hair, no fluids. Clean up and get your asses over here!” The speakers die before the camera guy has stopped snickering. He likes ordering the others about. Martina runs both hands through her copper-colored locks, sheds the blanket and walks over into the next room. Nude, she looks more regal.

Samstag, 24. Juli 2010

[Fabulous Flash Award]

Another nice award was bestowed on this blog - the Fabulous Flash Award. Thank you very much, pegjet! It was a pleasant surprise!



The rules connected with this award include passing it on to four other excellent flash fiction writers, and it took some thinking to decide... but finally, here we go.

1. At Coffeerings Everywhere you find not only flash fiction, but most often intelligent drabbles (stories written in exactly 100 words). It doesn't matter whether the stories are based upon reality or upon imagination, they are worth reading.

2. Another short story blogger I recently came to enjoy reading can be found over here - Superfluous. I especially enjoy the clever way in which the stories are written, and I am sure you will, too!

3. True Stories Honest Lies is the third blog I would like to pass this award on to. The stories are short, imaginative and fun to read, and they sound fresh.

4. Mindspeak, finally, is one source of #FridayFlash I always look forward to. Go there and take at look at the stories, and you may understand why. They are clever, dark and fast.

There are, of course, a lot more deserving writers out there. Honestly, each and everyone who takes up the challenge to write and put their stories out here where everyone can read and comment and, if they want to, tear them apart - it's brave, and it's generous.

Freitag, 23. Juli 2010

Inside

Remembering all my old cases, it should be hard to pick the strangest. But there was this woman, back in the early 1950s - it seems I can't get her out of my head. She had those huge pleading gray eyes... like lakes in early morning mist.

Her husband had made the appointment. I hardly knew anything about the case, he had only said that his wife was behaving "strange" and "talking nonsense" and that it was "nothing physical". Then she walked into my office. Tall, slender, shy. Her clothes were not the height of fashion, but she looked beautiful in them. You know, beautiful in this "I don't care" way. Her hair was this nondescript color, somewhere between dark blond and light brown, with the first gray strands already appearing at the temples, although she was hardly any older than thirty. I checked her file - thirty-two, to be exact. Her name, her age. That was all I had. I rose to greet her.

She sat down on the opposite side of my desk, tiny brown purse in her lap, smiling hesitantly. "I have to admit I am a little bit confused. When my husband said he had scheduled an appointment with a specialist, I had expected a specialist in internal medicine, or maybe a cancerologist."

"So, you have cancer?" I looked at her. She seemed normal enough. But you can never tell with this kind of patients.

"Probably not. But, you know... I have got this feeling as if something was eating me from the inside."

Our conversation took its course. I quickly ruled out several standard problems. Yes, she had seen several physicians. No, they had not found any explanation for her discomfort. She answered my questions willingly, as polite and thorough as possible. In her agenda, she had written down several appointments she had kept during the last few months, and she also produced some neatly folded letters she had obtained from these physicians. "You must know, I expected you to be an expert in the - more physical field of medicine. This is why I brought the documents. However, if you want to, please take a look at them."

My colleagues had actually ruled out about every source of physical discomfort known to man. Which were not as many as today, given the circumstances. Medicine has come a long way since then. I browsed the reports, which basically said that the discomfort was in the patient's head. Well, she was my kind of girl, then.

There was another possibility. "Do you have children?"

She looked down, her shoulders slumped slightly. "No, unfortunately we do not. We have been... trying to conceive for almost two years. My specialist says there are no organic causes for my infertility, he advises us to - well, keep on trying." At this, she actually blushed a little. What a wonderful girl, I thought, her guy must be lucky to have her.

At the end of our session, she rose and shook my hand. Looking closer at her, I detected the first signs of nervousness. There was this squint to her eyes, and her gaze flickered around the room.

We scheduled a series of appointments, and she arrived punctual as a clockwork every time. Her outer appearance did not change, but within a short time I came to understand the "behaving strange" part of her husband's instructions. I could watch it becoming worse every time we met.

In the end, I thought it best for her to retire to a special facility for a couple of weeks, or maybe months, until she had regained her balance.

"A mental institution?" She was outraged and rose abruptly from her seat, where she had placed herself less than five minutes before. "I will have nothing of this. I am leaving. Have a nice day."

I had expected this behavior. Her husband was informed. He was waiting outside, together with two strong guys I had ordered over with an ambulance, to give her a safe ride to her new destination. It was a sad moment, seeing her fall apart like this. But a quick injection, and we could carry her outside.

"Really, there is nothing wrong with your wife", I assured the husband. "All she needs is some rest. Believe me, in a few weeks you will have her back, all shiny and new."

Well, things never turn out as you expect them to.

The woman died.

I received the call a few days later, while her gray eyes still floated through my imagination. Of course there was an autopsy, and they found the most disturbing thing. My friend Harry, director of the institution, who had been there, told me.

"You know, physically, there seemed nothing wrong with her. No bruises, no cuts, no wounds or scars. And the medication had taken care of her nervous behavior. I thought we'd discharge her less than a month from now. And suddenly, she is lying in her bed, all bloated and dead. And when we opened her..."

A moment of silence.

"What was it?" I asked.

On the other end of the line, I could hear him swallow. "Her intestines were literally crawling with maggots. Don't ask me how they came to be there."

I hung up without another word, returned to my desk and retrieved the bottle of Scotch.

Seemed as if something had been eating her after all.

Dienstag, 20. Juli 2010

Sybil

"Hi Mom... uh, yes, everything's going fine. How about you?... Yes, I know. I'll send him a card. Thanks for reminding me, though. ... Aha... aha... yes, I'll do it. Sure.

Now, the thing why I'm calling... no, I am not pregnant... What do you mean, 'that's a pity'?... Yes, I know I'm not getting any younger.

Now, why I was calling... the weirdest thing happened last week. Let me tell you. You know how I usually take a bottle of tap water to work with me? ... Yes, you've already told me these bottles are germ reactors... Thanks, I'll stick with it. However, imagine what came out of the faucet!... Water, why yes! Stop trying to be funny, I am trying to tell you something. Suddenly, there was this tiny thing in my bottle... like a tiny animal. Four legs, head, tail. Not larger than my thumb nail... Yes, I'm sure I looked stupid. You know my funny expressions... Mum, I KNOW the story about the frog in the lunch box. I was trying to tell you something! Would you stop interrupting me, please?... No, I am not being difficult. Are you going to listen now or what?...

Okay, I am sorry, too. Well, about this thing in the bottle - what was I supposed to do? I was in a hurry, so I just put the bottle on top of the counter and ran off to work. And suddenly I remembered that I had put the lid on the bottle! Now, I was half expecting to find that thingy suffocated by the time I'd come home. The other half of me was convinced I had been hallucinating... No, I am NOT doing drugs.

So, when I got home, that thing was swimming around in the water bottle and enjoying itself. I unscrewed the lid, put a sock over the opening and tight it in place with a rubber band... What it looked like? Kind of bronze-colored, I'd say, but SLIMY. No fur, I think it has scales. I haven't touched it... Yes, it's still here. I moved it to my old fish tank a few days ago. It's growing rather fast. I called it Sybil... How I know it's a girl? Mum, you're being silly. I just decided it. Anyway, Sybil is growing really fast. I called some guy over at the Veterinary Clinic and he promised they'd drop by tomorrow way early and get her. She's in the living room at the moment, but she hardly fits in the fish tank anymore... I'm feeding her chaps and sausages, she seems to like her proteins raw, haha... Well, I TRIED to feed her salad, but she wouldn't touch it. I guess if she likes it, it's good for her.

Now, I was wondering if you could give me a ride into town tomorrow? I'll never be on time if I have to take the subway... Thanks, that's great. Let's say, 8:30? - wait, I guess I heard something in the living room. Maybe the kids hauled their football through the window again. Those dirty bastards... Yes, I told the landlord about it. Just hang on a second, I'll go and check..."

Freitag, 16. Juli 2010

Arcade

When he woke up, he didn't know where he was. The floor was black, the walls were blue. His head hurt. The last thing he remembered was that chick at the bar, and the funny drink she had ordered for him. What a nice rack... had they hooked up? He hoped so. What a pity he didn't remember a thing about it.

Every surface was smooth, and the air smelled funny. Like being in one of those tiny, dusty electronics store on a hot summer day. Where the hell...? Carefully, he stumbled to his feet, turning to the wall for support. When his hand touched the surface, there was a sudden tingling, like the tiniest of electric shocks. Surprised, he drew his hand away - and almost fell to the ground again. There probably had been magic sauce in that drink.

In the distance there was a strange, howling noise, which drilled itself through his tortured brain. Damn, shut up, he thought. The sound reminded him of something... like sirens, but faster. In his memory, there were flashes and noises and tiny shapes moving around... - whatever. First, he had to get out of here.

Distances were greater than they seemed, and it took him quite a while to reach the next corner. The howling moved around, but it didn't come nearer, and he was grateful for this. But what was this?

In the next corridor, there were strange white dots on the ground. They grew brighter as he approached, and flared up when he stepped on them. All he wanted to do was get out of this strange fun house. Was this some kind of prank somebody was playing on him? He'd teach them a lesson, as soon as he was home. And had gotten some sleep.

The corridor seemed endless. Slowly his mind warmed up to operating temperature, and now he remembered where he had heard this sound before. Not this loud, of course, and with a more artificial ring to it. The arcade, where he had spent so many exciting afternoons when he was a teenager. What was that game again?

A soft vibrating sensation made the hair on the back of his neck jump to attention. The howling was closer now, and the colors gained intensity. He had almost reached the next corner. Surely the exit was here somewhere, and the noise was just to scare him off. He reached the corner, turned round - and froze. A glistening yellow sphere raced down the hallway, and wherever it passed, the glowing white spots disappeared from the ground. An obscure mint-colored shape was right behind it.

He prepared to run, but in that instance, another ghost appeared. The red one. They were closing in on him rapidly. And now he remembered what that game with this sound had been. Pacman.

Everything turned dark. Game over.

Freitag, 9. Juli 2010

Frozen

Sometimes I dream that I am awake.

I am lying in my bed, unable to move, with my eyes staring at the ceiling. The smell of burning olibanum fills my lungs. It is difficult to breathe.

All I can see from the corners of my eyes are the small dresser next to the door and the window, with its drapes closed. Everything looks just as usual. The bottles, the stuffed toys, the dying plants. I have never had a green thumb.

My body feels as if it is made of lead. In my dream, I don't even try moving my limbs because I know I will fail. All I do is breathe and wait.

For what?

The afternoon sun caresses the drapes, and some rays wiggle their way past the cream-colored cloth. Dust particles bathe in the yellow light.

I would like to have some fresh air, and come to think of it, the smell is strange. Why would someone burn incense in my apartment? There is no sound, although I really strain to listen.

It feels as if I was the last person on earth - unable to move, trapped in my own body, with only dust and sunlight as company.

The smell makes me want to puke.

Donnerstag, 1. Juli 2010

Rain

Hell, and I thought rain would make everything better.

't was a long summer, as hot and as dry as your grandmother's - excuse me. I forgot there are ladies present. Let's say it was really hot and really dry. The gras kept dying in every garden, no matter how much water the people poured over it. The town counsil prohibited watering gardens as the resources shrank. Some old sharts wouldn't listen, of course. You know, they are as stupid as dusty boots. We even had the police come out and tell them off.

Speaking of which - the dust was everywhere. While the plants kept dying, the ground dried out and was ripped apart. Nothing like the forces of nature to show you where the hammer hangs. Going to the store for some fresh fruit, all you found was shriveled up and looked rather sorry than tasty. And it was covered in dust. My sister, who has always been obsessed with everything home-made and as fresh as possible (her husband used to joke, "If we have left-over horsemeat, I'll ride it to work tomorrow." - well, he used to when he still was her husband; the last things they said about each other were less than nice) - where was I? Ah yes... my crazy, vitamin-obsessed sister started buying canned goods. You had to take the cans home and clean them off, otherwise all the dust ended up in your dinner nevertheless.

And the sun kept shining.

Soon everything was brown and gray, and the people became increasingly aggressive. Next was a ban on fire weapons. If the mayor hadn't been clever that once, we'd probably all be dead by now.

I wonder if it would have made a difference.

The strangest thing was that, one by one, the bigger radio stations and TV programs started dying. The shows became sporadic, and then they stopped. We started playing cards again, like in the old times. A few old folks even had ancient grammophones - you needed to crank them up, literally, for some music, and the records they had were not old-fashioned, but rather dead-fashioned. But as Pa used to say, you got what you got.

And when nobody expected it, the rain came. At noon the clouds began to gather, as if they had rehearsed it again and again. The light show was great, but the thunder drove the cattle mad. I hear Johnson had to shoot all his young bulls. Stupid animals. We were mesmerized. Whoever had the opportunity to abandone his work did so and went in search of a safe place to watch.

That was six days ago. The rain hasn't stopped since. The ground was much too dry to take it up, so our streets became rivers. A few people drowned. I haven't seen an animal in days. Still no sign of life by TV or radio. The people I have met the last few days went about like zombies. We don't know what to do, and we are afraid.

Mittwoch, 30. Juni 2010

The one that got away

Man, that girl got me. I'd never have thought it would end like this. We were like, you know, one of these disgusting couples. Holding hands, kissing in public, smiling at each other. A lot. Our friends used to joke about us all the time. We loved it. You know, that's exactly the behavior that makes every sane person want to puke. I wonder why we did it in the first place. I mean, we knew each other, what, six months?

Back then, we were convinced this was forever. Nothing could come between us. Lydia used to say we were like Bonnie and Clyde, or sun and moon; no one could imagine one without the other.

It was a beautiful night when she said this. We had been celebrating my new job. Superstitious Lydia had completely ignored the fact that I had finally landed on my feet until I came back from my first big business trip. That special night, she had fixed dinner just the way I love it, with spicey chicken and ice-cold beer. She had dressed up, looking lovelier than ever, and boy did she make sure it was a night to remember.

A few weeks later, Lydia told me she was pregnant. You mus know, I had been there before. Once, a tramp almost tricked me into playing father to the changeling she wound up with. As soon as I heard the rumors, I ran. Faster than you can say "action for support", I was gone. Don't know what happened to her.

See, I was nervous. And I tried hard, and without much success, not to show it on the outside. My reply to Lydia's good news was as lame as you can imagine, "You're sure?"

"No, but that little strip is." She smiled, but when she saw my expression, the smile went away.

We never talked much about it. I tried to be happy, looking forward to it. We bought all the stuff a kid needs. Lydia insisted on paying. Her paintings, although she was far from famous, somehow produced enough money for her to get by. "You know, I don't want anybody thinking I tricked you into this." Stupid that I am, I was relieved and appreciated her concern.

It took some convincing, however, to get her to agree to a paternity test. Laureena was so tiny, and as beautiful as her mother. I wanted her to be mine, but I had to be sure. Lydia looked at me with her huge black eyes. "You really want this test?"

Although I lost the staring competition, I refused to back down. "It's just to make it official. You know, we get to sign all these papers, and..."

"It's okay", she interrupted me, "if it's this important to you."

I knew the result. The envelope remained unopened. And Lydia walked out of the doctor's office, out of the building, and I never saw her again. Sometimes I wonder what she tells Laureena about her father.

Donnerstag, 24. Juni 2010

Balance

"Jonessss, you - you have to tell me."

"Tell you what?"

"Howd - howd - how do you do it?" My speech is slurred around the edges, and I can't seem to help it. And - are the chairs moving? I know what the people think, but I am NOT drunk. Nor am I a loser. Out of luck, maybe, but that will surely change soon enough.

Jones - good old Jones. He has the sweetest wife in the world. We used to work together, and lived in houses less than a spit apart from each other. I must have known him all my life. We met in the street while I was on my way back to the place where I am staying - it's only temporary - and he was heading home. And he invited me. "Come on, just a drink or two. For the good times."

And we drank. And we talked. And we drank some more.

Strange, isn't it; two guys, two lives, and how everything can turn out so different. I'll admit - these thoughts stagger through my head while I am drinking my beer - I'll admit I was a bit jealous. He always seemed to have everything. Married his highschool sweatheart. Drove a new car. I married Sarah when she got pregnant, and the kids drained all our money away. We both went to work - we thought we were happy at the time - and got by not too bad.

When you have so much in common, you can't help but becoming friends. Sometimes it was awkward (especially when we were doing things together as couples), but I didn't mind too much. I had Sarah, he had Jessica - well... I never told him. No good might come from it anyway.

Anyway, one day all our money was gone. Sarah must have stashed it away. We fought, we got a divorce. These days, the kid crosses the street to avoid me when she sees me coming. I bet she told her friends that her Dad is... well, dead. Never mind. It's all just temporary. I'll get back on my feet, pay our debts, everything will be alright. Maybe we'll move to another town, start over again.

Jones looks as me as if he expects something more. He has this soft smile on his face that women can't get enough of. It looks a little bit sad.

"You really do want to know." It's not a question, it's a statement.

I nod.

"Easy enough. I copied your credit cards. Changed your adress. Spent all your money. Did you never wonder why you wouldn't get the bills?" He takes the time to empty his glas. The words take some time to settle in my brain in a way that makes sense.

I turn around and stare at him.

"What??" Jones puts his glas down on the counter. "It was too easy. With all the things you were buying, you never kew how much you were actually spending anyway. And I had much better use for it. Consider it a kind of...", and he stresses the word that follows,"REIMBURSEMENT."

"Rembussment?" My tongue is much slower than my brain.

"For your sleeping with Jessica. Or did you think I didn't know?" He puts some money on the table and turns to leave the bar. "I think we're even."

Dienstag, 22. Juni 2010

White

[A drabble is a story told in exactly 100 words. Including the title, this one is 101. Sorry for that.]

I am wearing white because I am a doctor. Maybe a nurse.
I am wearing white because my religion demands it to show my purity of soul.
I am wearing white to stand out.
I am wearing white because I am a bride, and I have no explanation for the fact that there are neither family nor groom present.
I am wearing white because all angels do.
I am wearing white to reflect sunlight to prevent global warming.
I am wearing white because it suits my purpose.
I don't remember why I am wearing white, and I don't really care.

Freitag, 18. Juni 2010

Officer Twearp's Logbook

Not too long ago, the "Astrocia", under the command of the highly decorated Officer Twearp, was sent on a mission to discover and study alien beings on far away planets. This is an excerpt from its logbook - 18/7/234/6 sidereal time - transmitted to the main base.

"... strange planet close to a dying source of light and heat, covered with liquid to a large extent, inhabited. Huge diversity in species, mostly limited to only a few continents. The only species so far found on all continents are small, six-legged bugs obviously called cockroaches and two-legged so-called humans who walk upright. We have not yet figured out which of them is the dominant species. Initially, we will concentrate on humans, since they have more technology. (Although it has to be mentioned in favor of the cockroaches that they are the only ones actually inhabiting ALL continents - the humans visit the coldest one only sporadically. Both have been on the planet's satellite, which they refer to as moon, several times.)
There seem to be different kinds of humans, mainly varying in color and living conditions. They are a highly spiritual life-form. Their main source of communication is a religious device called Teevee. They receive religious instructions around the clock, ranging from food processing to visions to insights into the lives of their priests and priestesses. Different kinds of humans seem devoted to different kinds of information coming from this Teevee - I assume they are divided and assigned by their leaders according to their special powers. Some watch elaborate discussions, in which they seem to take part by means of telepathic communication, since they do not interact with Teevee using their vocal cords.
Others spend all their time observing musical rituals with priestesses dancing in ecstasy or performing sacred mating rituals - sometimes with several partners at the same time. It seems that humans have achieved a way of life without shame or false morals. They perform all activities of their everyday lives like sacred rituals without hiding, in plain sight. They must be very noble individuals.
There are humans, whom we consider to be lesser individuals, who spend hardly any time in the aforementioned religious activities, and a few have no access to Teevee at all. They are designated to lesser works, providing clothes, preparing food or observing the outdoors perimeters.
As far as I understand, the less time humans have to spend outside, the more important they are. They are provided with processed food according to high technical standards by their Ministry of Nutrition, which runs by the name of Supermarket. This Supermarket, as the name already indicates, is superior to a normal market, where food is given out in its raw variation, with leaves and appendages of various kinds, and still has to be processed by the consumers themselves. It seems that Supermarket is not open to all, since some humans exclusively receive their food from normal markets and sometimes have to travel large distances to do so.
Early in the day, large groups of individuals leave their homes and travel to other locations, often in communities using means of transportation together, spend a certain amount of time in this other location and then return home. This is likely to be another spiritual experience, and not all humans are entitled to take part in this.
There are only very little priests and priestesses of super-regional importance. Everything they do seems to be of highest values, and some trusted humans are devoted to reporting on these spiritual leaders around the clock, following wherever they go. Their reports are either broadcasted on Teevee or printed in magazines, with immobile pictures. Those with the most urgent information go by the name of “yellow press” - yellow being the light of their main extraterrestrial energy source, the name emphasizes their importance. Especially younger humans, who still need spiritual guidance, worship these idols, they devote themselves to one or more of them and collect everything there is to know about these humans. The two most important spiritual leaders, according to our investigations, are a female called Britney Spears and a male by the name of Johnny Depp.
As for the cockroaches...”

[Transmission interrupted]

Mittwoch, 16. Juni 2010

Into the woods

Footsteps coming closer. The ground is soft and moist, but I can hear them – sense them. Soft vibrations dancing through the moist soil. I am startled. The sky is still dark blue, last stars sparkling, the slightest tinge of purple over the houses in the east. It is very early in the day, but my hunting time is almost over. I am a creature of the dark. And this is my hunting area. Over the years, their habitations have crept closer to the woods. There are more of them today, and they take up ever so much more space. In return, the woods have become tamer. Neater, more composed. I don’t like it, in general, I prefer my privacy – my solitude. Food, however, is obtained much more easily these days. Carefully, I creep closer to the path.

There it is, the source of the disturbance - a young woman, jogging. Blond hair, not too tall. She is not very fast, with an expression of concentration on her round face. Humans are funny beings. They have spent so much time inventing means to get from one place to the next faster, easier, with more noise, they even have huge metal birds that fly across the waters... and now they get up earlier than they need to, simply to run around the forest. Alone, sometimes in pairs, seldom more than three at once. They probably think they’re safe.

Coming closer, I realize that she is kind of chubby, in a tasty way. Her legs are enclosed in light blue sweat pants, the T-shirt is purple and green, with little black designs on it. She is very visible against the dark tree trunks. With some humans, you get the idea they are trying to hide. She is clearly not one of them. Her shoes are reflecting what little light finds its way down to the damp ground. How very careless of her, as if she had no natural enemies. They are not prepared to die, nor do they expect their lives to end suddenly. Even their warriors fight without fear because they know they will never have to face death - it will grab them by surprise, and everyathing will be over in seconds. Thinking of torture, the idea of some noble ceremony to make them pass from one shore to the next as true fighters fills them with terror.

It would be so easy to tackle her, take her to the ground, end it. Take her essence – to be honest, I am not a great meat eater. Her lifeless body might be found only a few hours later if left on the path, but it might be easily possible to drag her into the dark – just a few steps away from the path, and she will be invisible to her fellow humans, out of reach. How very odd. They won’t find her until her body is smelly and ripe in the hot summer air. Months will go by in which she will have disappeared as if by magic. They have so very, very limited perception.

The woman passes only a claw’s width from me. Her face is red, she is breathing heavily. No need to run for your life these days, I suppose. At least she is making an effort. Her breath ruffles the black fur on my shoulders as she passes the very tree I am hiding behind, and the urge grows. It would be so easy, and she is so – juicy. I can almost taste her, and she doesn’t have a clue. In the early morning forest, dark and cold and silent, she is like a blaze.

In her ears, there are these tiny plugs so many humans are fond of wearing. Music blasts from them directly into their brains, messing with their senses. This may be why she doesn’t realize the odd silence. Usually, there should be birds singing, doesn’t she know? The birds are gone. All animals have fled, they recognize me, they know how to stay alive. Humans don’t, they’re blind to the things that really matter.
The heat coming from her body remains a moment after she has passed, and I feel her steps vibrating up my spine as her legs carry her away from me. This short distance has already exhausted her, it seems. If anything, anyone came up to her, she would be too pumped to defend herself. I know that it’s not only us hunting them out here – strange enough, some of them are hunting as well. The things they do to each other are worse than everything I might come up with for her. After all, to me she would only be food. A nice bite, but food nevertheless. To them she would be… I am not quite sure.

Is she done already? At the next bend, she turns around, slower now, and jogs into my direction again. Her bouncy ponytail has become untangled, small strands interfering with her vision. She tries to blow them out of her face, unsuccessfully. Her hand comes up – it looks as if she chews her fingernails regularly – and wipes them away. She misses a step, stumbles and catches herself. Once more, I feel her warmth sweeping over my body. The soil’s vibrating becomes weaker as she runs away from me, towards the houses. The sun is barely visible over the roofs. The stars have disappeared. I sigh and retreat into the woods.

I spare her. This time.

Samstag, 12. Juni 2010

Virus

I am typing this just in case.

You know, it all began harmless enough. Now famous George Spinfas, father of modern security systems, had surgeons implant a microchip into his left palm, using which he was able to enter his high-security laboratories at any time without keys, ID cards or all that stuff. It worked like a charm. Soon everyone of his co-workers had his or her own chip - in the left hand for right-handers et vice versa. This means "the other way round". You get the picture. Those were trusted people.

They began experimenting with their new security system. Testing its limitations. One point they were concerned about - viruses. These nasty little buggers. They must have killed my hard disk at least a dozen times. And there is no antivirus software in the whole worrld to take care of all of them. One always escapes.

Yes, it happened. One of the chips got infected. But it was done on purpose, so they could see in which ways the virus would spread through the system. And they invented new security measures that prevented active programs from entering the actual laboratory system. They thought they had achieved something great, and sold the system to a huge international corporation.

Idiots.

My hand is itching, and I don't know how much longer I can take it. I'll try to keep it short. As you read this, please make sure to not touch the computer. It's for your own safety.

Soon, almost everybody in the world had their own microchips. Regular scans and check-ups were invented to prevent abuse. Of course, there were the usual scams and thefts - people would wake up in the alley with one hand less than they thought they should have, and in rare cases both hands were missing, if the thieves had been wrong the first time, but the governments agreed on high international standards for punishment. Identity theft by either copying or relocating personalized microchips was punished by immediate death. Special circuits were invented for this. You got caught with the wrong chip, you were fried. On the spot. Chip theft stopped shortly after the laws had been invented.

Check-up records from these years show that soon everyone carrying a chip was infected with one or another computer virus. Which was no problem. We had these special controls, you remember? The viruses were prevented from spreading to other electronic systems.

They spread inside the bodies instead. Mysterios deaths occurred. It took us long to realize what was going on. We searched for biological viruses, funghi, bacteria - nothing. Only by chance, when searching for a genetic disorder, did we stumble upon it. Yes, the genes had been changed. They had been - well, let's say "infected" with parts of computer codes. That's how they spread through bodies, sending out strange signals the biologic host did not understand. Major failures were the result. People died.

The first technologically induced STD. It was one giant joke. And we were the butt of it. The symptoms varied in the beginning, but soon there were only a few viruses left against which biology proved to be powerless. If you see someone with read eyes and a swollen face, run. If people start behaving strangely, avoid them. They may be infected. When the itching starts, they are close to their end. The new orders, with which their brains have been infected, force them to hide somewhere in the open, where their bodies will have served as food to various scavengers bvy the time they are found.

Special protected patrols have killed almost all the birds and most of the rats. We're trying to famish the virus, keep it from jumping from one host to the next. No unprotected - uhm, procreational activities. No kissing. No shaking hands. No pets. Chances are it's already too late, but we can't give up. Infected people are brought to special facilities, where they aid in searching medication to either cure or relieve.

They are trying to find new means of identification right this minute. I should be back at the laboratory, but I am not sure I will be of much help. And I don't want to be transferred to the facilities.

The itching is driving me mad...

Donnerstag, 10. Juni 2010

Uninspiration

Don't look at me like that. Your puppy eyes don't impress me. You're no inspiration today, for sure. I wonder why I ever thought you might help me become famous. I must have been mad to believe what they said about you folks!

Nothing happened. No streak of genius. My words are flat, uninspired. Dead. What kind of a writer *am* I? Staring at the screen for hours. I tried pen and paper, as you suggested, but - nada. Niente. Do I have to spell it out for you? Useless piece of flesh that you are. I wonder if I could trade you in for a parrot.

Repeat, please? Yes, yes, I know - you *tried*. Let me tell you something, you didn't try hard enough! You're such a lazy ass! Stop whining and come up with something! That's the only thing you know, hu? Please this, please that, I want... - you don't want anything, unless I permit it. And right now, all I want to hear from you is brilliance. You have five minutes to come up with something. I'll go make some coffee. Thank God I don't need you for that. Maybe I should put you in the machine, see if some hot caffeine does you any good.

What did you say? Unchain you? Stupid, I'll never let you go. If nothing else, at least you make for a nice decoration when I have friends over. And don't forget to sparkle. Or have you forgotten how to do that as well?

Pah. Muses are overrated.

Donnerstag, 3. Juni 2010

Dietary supplements

Jacky stood in the drugstore, indecisive. She had heard all kinds of things about dietary supplements, and most of them had not been good at all. Silicon dioxide was said to cause kidney stones, too much vitamin C could cause severe diarrhea, and some people had even died from vitamin poisoning! Until now, she had been convinced that balanced nutrition would supply her body with everything she needed.

Then her knees started to hurt. The doctors couldn't find anything, and the pain didn't get worse. But it was there, and it was getting on her nerves. Then Pam had proposed she should try special dietary supplements for joints. "Sportsmen take that stuff all the time!"

"You sure?"

"Of course, I've seen it in a documentary!"

They had talked a while, and although Jacky hadn't agreed to trying it out, she had thought about it for a night, and now here she was. But there were so many choices, and she was feeling dizzy already. The chemical smell and the pale light didn't help. Finally, she grabbed a box of pills from an established dietary supplement manufacturer and headed for the exit.

"A very good choice, if I may say so", commented the elderly woman sitting behind the cash register.

Jacky smiled. She didn't want to discuss her nutritional decisions with a stranger.

The woman carried on, "I take them myself, and my hip joints are back in their twenties, if you know what I mean!" She winked, bagged the pills for Jacky and sent her on her way with a cheery "Have a nice day!"

Oh boy, Jacky thought, I hope verbal diarrhea is no regular adverse reaction. She went straight home, where the dishes were waiting for her, and dropped herself on the couch to read the intructions that came with the pills.

Take one per day, with a glass of water, after a meal.

Didn't sound too difficult. She read on - wait, were they kidding? That stuff was made from sharks! Jacky shuddered. Disgusting. Did they think she was crazy? She'd throw them away immediately and stick with her health food. The pain would probably go away all on its -

Ouch.

Getting up from the couch proved to be rather difficult. Jacky clenched her teeth. Maybe she should give those pills a try. And when the box was empty, she'd try another sort. One without endangered species. She had bought these anyway, what good would it do if she threw them away now?

She decided it hadn't been too long since breakfast and swallowed one of the pills. Then she went to get some water. And maybe she should take two pills per day, just to be sure?

The results were fantastic. Within only a few days, the pain was gone. Jacky was surprised. She hadn't expected fast results. She took up her jogging routine again, half expecting the pain to return, but - nada. Her knees were like back in college. Not the slightest hint of discomfort.

Trevor, whom she'd been seeing for a few months by now, commentet on her change in mood and energy. He complimented her on her thighs, which were getting back in shape way faster than she had expected. They had a great time.

However, Jacky made a habit out of smiling with closed lips. It was strange getting used to it, but she had discovered adverse effects that had not been listed. Her teeth were... changing. It was almost as if they had increased in numbers. Yes, that sounded foolish, hence Jacky never talked about it to anyone. Not Pam, not the doctors. They'd probably sent her to an... institution. She hardly ever thought about the strange changes. Only when she smiled - with her lips closed.

And the special night finally came. She decided to invite Trevor over for dinner *and more*. They had chicken with rosemary potatoes and young peas, and homemade tiramisu for dessert. While Trevor was opening the second bottle of wine, Jacky went into the kitchen to take her dietary supplement pill. She was a bit nervous. But things went smooth. They listened to some music, talked, started kissing, and before she knew it they were up in her bedroom. Anticipating this, she had put clean white sheets on her bed this morning. Sleeping wrapped in white linnen made her feel... innocent.

She ended up sitting on top of him, wearing nothing but her unmentionables, and stared down at his chest. He looked up at her with a knowing smile. There was no going back.

Jacky smiled, showing her two perfect rows of teeth. He looked... delicious.

Donnerstag, 27. Mai 2010

At least the cake is good

They could have avoided it all. They chose to end their lives like this.

Calm settles over me as I look around the tiny chapel. The walls are mostly clean. A few splatters of blood and some blobs of brain near the altar, but apart from that - cleaning shouldn't take too long. If they discover it soon, that is. As far as I know, hardly anyone ever comes here. It's the reason why they chose this place, after all. They would have been gone by the time somebody noticed, god knows where.

Sandra knew exactly how I felt about her relationship with Brian. She shouldn't have told me. Her happiness made me sick. She had to know I was in love with him myself.

"It's a secret, but we need your help!"

I said yes and did everything they asked. And on that special day, I showed up and caved in their stupid, love-filled balloon heads. You could say, I burst the bubbles. Two hearty swings with the axe, that's everything it took. I am a farm girl, after all. I know how to work.

Sandra's dress doesn't look too good with all the blood. I know, it's a tradition, but white simply isn't the right color for every woman. It has made her look pale, and her hair is a mess. His head has dissolved, he's responsible, you could say, for getting brain all over the church. Maybe I overreacted a little?

I turn around, I don't want to look at them anymore. I guess I will have to leave. Too bad I haven't prepared anything. I will have to take their car and hope that Sandra's clothes fit me. And I should eat something before I leave, it's going to be a long night.

Something catches my eye. The wedding cake. Not too big, it was meant for only two people - or three, if they intended to share with the late preacher. Strawberry rum chocolate, my favorite.

Donnerstag, 20. Mai 2010

Brilliant thieves

"So, you're saying you're a thief?" The guy empties his glass. "I think you're a liar."

They've been sitting at the counter for more than an hour, and k´no one knows who started talking. Their lives are of no importance, neither are their plans for tomorrow. The air is heavy with smoke and the smell of spilled glasses. It will take a lot of hot water to get that stench off their hair and skin.

She smiles. "If you think so. I'm leaving now." She shrugs, grabs her purse and prepares to leave. "Of course, you could come along and see for yourself." He's really hot, and about the only thing she still needs tonight. Everything else - splendid. That's the word for it.

And he follows her. A few steps behind, as if they don't know each other. She makes her way towards the market place, with all its bars and cafés and restaurants, the place that never rests. Bustling with life. His eyes are on her back, she feels the gaze like a line of wet heat up and down her spine. She knows this might be the beginning of something marvellous.

A guy bumps into her. He's, like, fifty-ish, losing his hair faster than it can turn gray, trying to comb it over the bald spot in this ridiculous post-war fashion. The woman next to him is tiny and fragile, She may be younger than him or twenty years older. Hard to tell. She clings to his arm as he mutters excuses.

"Don't worry", she smiles reassuringly and puts on her calming, innocent face. What do they think she's going to do, beat them to pulp? My, she's just a little girl! She has to force back a giggle.

After the couple has resumed their way - back to their hotel, possibly - the guy catches up with her. "Let me see what you got. His wallet?" He seems excited. She knew he would go for this sort of thing, with his expensive, ragged jeans that he bought looking exactly like this and the worn leather jacket that may have belonged to an uncle or elder brother, and the hunger in his eyes for something - more...

"What would I do with his wallet? I've got something even better."

"A watch? Car keys?"

"Nope." Instead of telling, she opens her left hand just a little bit, and he can see something sparkling. No jewel has ever had that shine.

"What is that?"

"The old man's essence. Energy. His life, if you want. And I know just what to do with it. Want a bit?" She touches him gently with her right hand, fingers trailing from chest over stomach, down... he swallows, and the hunger she can see in his eyes has to hurt... and she knows she has been successful tonight. A life and a soul, and maybe a heart as well.

Sonntag, 16. Mai 2010

This is not a story...

... but since I am so very happy with the dress I ordered a few weeks back, I thought I'd give you the oportunity to head over to my every-day-life German blog, where chances are you won't understand a thing I say, but can still admire the beautiful cherry dress that not even my presence can dishonor. (The first picture is of me on a usual Sunday morning before I've had my coffee. And yes, the BF loves me nevertheless. (^v^) )

LINK

Donnerstag, 13. Mai 2010

Special magic

Everything has been prepared for a peaceful Friday night at home when the doorbell rings. A look in the mirror - everything okay? Yes, perfect - and I open the door. I half know what to expect.

Andrew. Obviously in despair, and possibly drunk. My best friend since kindergarten. He looks at me with puffy eyes and says, "Nataly left me."

"What??!" I am surprised. I didn't think it would come this fast. His highschool sweetheart, beautiful Nataly. It always seemed they were meant to be together. But we all know that destiny can be a mean bitch, sometimes. I gather my thoughts, "Come inside, tell me what happened."

In the cupboard there are several bottles of wine, and I grab two glasses. "Sit down, have some of this. And now tell me."

Andrew, it seems, isn't listening. He has taken his wallet out of his jacket and looks at an old picture. The woman is beautiful, curly blond hair, radiant smile, violet-coloured eyes. I've only met Nataly a few weeks ago, and she is still as gorgeous. No surprise Andrew fell for her. It hurts me to see him in this stage.

At first I don't understand what he says.

"Repeat please?"

"She has been sleeping with the guy who sold our old house."

"I am so sorry to hear it! What are you going to do now?"

"Don't know. I was hoping I could crush on your sofa."

"You get the bed. And tomorrow we'll figure everything out. Come here", and I lean in to embrace him, but my elbow connects with the wine glass in his hand, and a gush of the good red one spills down his white shirt.

He puts the glass down and grabs for some napkins, "Shit, that's my best shirt!"

"Don't worry, I'll get a towel and some salt", I assure him and hurry out of the living room. "Get off that shirt, we'll get the stain out in no time."

I grab a clean towel from the kitchen and go into my reading room. That's the last place where I used salt. It's a tiny room, more a closet with a window, and the walls can't be seen because of the book shelves. I had them made especially for this room, and they touch the ceiling. In the middle of the room, there is a small coffee table, covered with a piece of vibrant red cloth. Two red candles are sitting in the middle, on the left and right side of a heart-shaped piece of glass. The table is covered in fresh rose leaves, which perfume the air with a sweet scent.

There's the salt, as I remembered. I used it to draw a circle on the ground. It's surprisingly easy to clean salt out of a carpet, easier than sand, and I like the idea of a purifying circle for my rituals.

Standing in the door frame, salt in hand, I look at the table once more. In front of the candles, there are two pictures lying on the cloth. One is of Nataly, the same Andrew has in his wallet, the other one is ripped out of a newspaper. The headline said, "Real Estate Manager Wins Hay Lottery".

I put the salt down and light some more incense. Would be a shame to let everything go to waste now. Then I return to help the now shirtless Andrew with the wine stain.

He is thoroughly shaken. "I always thought, the... the only thing that could come between Nataly and... me would be an evil spell or sssomething." His words are becoming slurry.

I put my arm around him and snuggle closer. Just good friends comforting each other on a Friday night, with two bottles of wine. It's completely innocent. After all, everybody knows that witches don't exist, right?

Freitag, 7. Mai 2010

Books on Camel Backs

The buzzing of the flies was the only sound heard in the small hut. It was hot, and a dusty breeze brought the smell of goat dung and someone cooking rice and spicy roots.

Nafasi looked down at Kanzi's weak frame. Her baby girl. She remembered exactly what it had been like - her first child after years of marriage, and when she held the tiny bundle in her arms, she had already suspected it would be her only child. She had loved her nevertheless. Rajabu had been angry with her for not giving him an heir, but their life had been peaceful. She had watched Kanzi grow up, play, learn, work, go away and marry. Then the great famine had come, and Kanzi was pregnant. The outcome had been inevitable.

Nafasi tried to remember only the good times. Her dark skin stretched tight across her bones. She had always been a strong woman, and the years had imprinted the stories of her working years on her frame. Their life had been hard, filled with need rather than gratitude, and between hard work and the short hours of sleep there had been little else.

One day kept floating to the surface of Nafasi's memory. The library camels had come to the tiny local school, and Kanzi had sneaked away from their goats. She had always been a curious little girl. A stranger read stories to the children, and two goats had run away in the mean time. At night, after Rajabu's anger had receded, Kanzi declared, "I want to go to school."

Nafasi had been busy preparing dinner. "You can't go to school. I need your help."

"But I want to read?"

"What good is reading, anyway? You would only get distracted, forget your work."

"You know I wouldn't. I would learn and become rich."

"Women don't become rich. And men don't like smart women. It's better if you stay at home." Nafasi looked over her shoulder to make sure Rajabu hadn't heard a word of their conversation. He would only get more upset.

Kanzi was stubborn. Nafasi tried to reason with her, but the girl would not let go of her dream. "I want to read. I want to learn" was all she would say.

"Wouldn't you rather want a new dress? I could get cloth and make you one."

"I want to read."

"Come on. Wouldn't you want to go to the cinema when we come to the next big town?"

"No, I want to read." Kanzi stomped her little feet on the ground. Red dust covered her thin legs.

Nafasi hesitated. "Well..." She had saved money for a long time to be able to buy this. Rajabu loved sweets, and she had hoped to surprise him one day, when his mood was especially dark. Now she had to change her plans. "What do you want more - books or chocolate?"

Kanzi's eyes grew huge. "You don't have chocolate."

"I do, and it's yours. If you promise to stop with these stupid ideas."

Later that night, Kanzi sat in a corner of their hut, licking the last bits of chocolate from cheap tin-foil. Of course the chocolate had molten several times since Nafasi had bought it, and dust had crept into the foil. Nevertheless it was a rare treat. And Kanzi was a girl of honor, she never mentioned her desire to read again.

A tear slid down Nafasi's wrinkled cheek. She remembered her little girl, and how proud she had been that day that her daughter would take her responsibilities and forgo her own foolish dreams. She couldn't help but wonder whether things might have been different.