Freitag, 29. Januar 2010

Them

Run.
Faster.
The police won't help you.
They won't even believe you.
Everyone's laughing at you.
So don't tell your story.
Don't trust anyone.
Keep quiet.
Be invisible.
Never look back.
When you hear their wings, it will be too late.

Donnerstag, 21. Januar 2010

The office plant

"What have you done to Herman?"

Barbara's voice startles him, and he pours hot coffee over his hands. He curses under his breath and forces himself to produce a smile. "Why, you know I took him home for some fresh soil and fertilizer and a bigger pot. I told you!"

"Yes, but that was - what, a week ago? The office looks so empty without him!"

Herman, this stupid plant... getting him into trouble all the time. Back when he broke of a new leave, two weeks later when he spilled the water over official documents instead of watering the plant, another few days later when Herman keeled and broke the secretary's favorite coffee mug.

"Well, you know, he seems to be doing so good, I thought I'd give him a few more days in my special greenhouse."

Barbara looks at him suspiciously. "You sure?"

"Well, let's be honest... my younger brother is, like, this mad scientist, you know, and he had this special new fertilizer he wanted to try..." He feels Barbara's stare. Sweat starts collecting at the base of his skull, ready to slide down his spine. "Long story. Well, things got a little bit out of hand, and now Herman is a flesh-consuming monster plant and I am desperately trying to find a suitable substitute so no one will notice anything."

Silence.

Barbara looks at him, eyes wide - and starts laughing. "For a moment you almost had me, guy. Stop making up all these stupid stories and get back to work! And don't forget to bring in Herman, it's boring without him."

He grins, waves at her and heads back to his office. Papers waiting for him, as usual.

Later that day, when he returns home after trying to find an adequate substitute for Herman, his cat has disappeared. The office plant stands on the windowsill, and it seems as if it is smiling. A huge, evil plant smile.

"Now, Herman, what have you done this time? Couldn't you wait till I got home with your steaks?"

Stupid brother.

Mittwoch, 20. Januar 2010

Moving house

I'm moving out, and I am a little confused and overwhelmed by this. I loved my apartment - the garden, the sunshine in the kitchen in the early morning, the quiet noises of the neighbors that travel through this old house like ghosts of moments I haven't witnessed. The wooden stairs creak when the guy from the top floor comes home late at night, and the sound has found it's way into my dreams many times. When the catholic family downstairs has had fish for dinner on Fridays, I have also been able to smell it every friggin' time.

The two rooms and tiny kitchen are just so lovely. Someone who lived here before me painted the walls a friendly, sunny yellow, and I left it that way. Most of the walls was covered by bookshelves anyway, and now the whole place seems strange. Much bigger than I thought it was while I was living here. The honey color of the wooden doors seems to gleam and reflect throughout the room. There is only a curtain to separate kitchen and living room (or rather, for me, office), but luckily I had a door to keep my bedroom out of sight (and control the chaos in case someone dropped by without warning). There's also the smaller, less welcoming door of the closet. A feature I especially liked about this place. A closet comes in so handy sometimes, you can stash all you funny things in there. I'll miss it - moving in with my boyfriend, I have not exactly figured out where to put all my stuff and hide the skeletons. We'll have to work things out in time. The last days were so busy, I just hope we didn't forget anything.

The doorbell rings, and my landlord has arrived. Today we are going to make sure everything is okay with the place, then I'll hand him the keys and walk out of here forever. I'll really miss that place.

The landlord, a friendly old man who os always wearing a long coat and an old-fashioned hat, agrees that the color of the walls is lovely and that they are in such a good condition I was right not to paint them white. He gives special scrutiny to the almost antique wooden floor, but finds no flaws there, either. Only the smell disturbs him.

"I know, not nice. This is because of the drains", I assure him. "I haven't been here for several days, so they probably just started smelling when no one used the water. It never was a problem while I was living here." Although it is also possible I simply got used to it, but I don't mention that out loud. It's highly improbable anyway.

The doorbell rings one more time, and I open the door with a huge smile on my face. My boyfriend has come to pick me up. We're almost done here. He smiles back at me, closes the front door behind him softly and rushes up the stairs to give me a hug and a tiny kiss. He is always shy in public.

The apartment is okay, no flaws, nothing needs repairing. I am ready to shake hands with my landlord and sign the papers, when he turns around to take a look at the closet. "You were a wonderful lodger, Miss..."

The door opens, and reveals my skeleton. Well, not exactly a skeleton, to be honest. There's still meat and skin covering part of the bones, and the clothes are glued to the body with slime and puss. The men in the room with me stand still, surprised, disgusted. Slowly, the body slides down against the wall, now that he has room for it, and falls out of the closet onto the wooden floor. My landlord loses his lunch.

So that was where the smell came from. Damn, I knew I had forgotten something.

Freitag, 15. Januar 2010

Firebird

The wind was icy. Karen was struggling against the wind and the cold. And her fear of heights. To her right, there was a steep rock wall with little to cling to. To her left - nothing. At least for the next four hundred or so feet. She had buried herself under so many layers of clothing she could barely move. Which did not make it any better, to be honest. But if she had the choice between freezing to death or getting smashed to pulp on the snow-covered rocks - freezing was a much slower, nastier death. In her backpack she felt Herbert move around anxiously. "Please, mother, don't let him burn me alive out here. The yellow press would love it." She took a deep breath and climbed on, following her instincts almost as much as the maps she had studied last night in her tiny apartment, sitting at her singed desk.

She had found Herbert in her back yard, lying helplessly at the foot of the old fir tree her her landlord would not have cut down. With every stormy night, the tree would shake and bend until Karen thought it would come down and crash the house - or at least break her windows - but up to now nothing had happened. It was almost a miracle. That special day, with more than six inches of snow covering the dead grass, she had gone there to put some food out for the birds. She had hung chains of peanuts and tiny planting pots filled with seeds and suet on the tree and put out some dried apples and nuts on a tiny platform she had made herself and cleaned regularly. Herbert had been sitting on the ground, naked, a tiny greenish-brown spot around him where the snow had melted away in the presence of his heat. He had been ugly, like all young birds, pink and with huge blueish closed eyes. Karen had backed off, watched him a while, and when it became apparent that no parents were going to show up to feed the little one, she had taken him inside with her.

Finding the information she needed proved to be difficult. She called an ornithologist she had dated for a while back in college, but although he asked her many questions and called her back after consulting several of his countless clever books, his information had been worthless. She then went on to check on the internet, but there was almost no information on firebirds (except for the car, of course), and virtually nothing on their diet. So she had to try. She offered Herbert everything she could think of - seeds, meat, bugs, worms she got from the pet shop, even wood and coal, following a hint in an old legend.

She soon found out that Herbert really liked cheese and toast. He sat in his box, filled with old rags and fireproof isolation material from the hardware store, nibbled his cheese (he preferred old Gouda and Cheddar) and scared Mr. Tomcat. The very first day, Karen's huge, terrifying cat had tried to catch (and probably eat) Herbert, but Karen had spent hours luring him out from behind the old bookshelf later, tail and ears thoroughly singed.

It had been a very cold and long winter. After work, Karen spent many hours sitting in her rocking chair, Herbert in her lap or on her feet for some extra warmth, reading a book. And he was content with this and ate his cheese and grew. Soon he developed gorgeous red and golden feathers, soft at first, but all the softness and gentleness soon disappeared behind his impressive proportions. Karen was astonished how fast he grew. Soon he would not fit in his box anymore, and he started leaving burn marks all over the apartment.

Karen went out to buy a fire extinguisher.

"Now, what am I supposed to do with you, hu? You can't stay with me forever, but as long as it's this cold outside..."

Finally, she realized the flaw in her logic. She did some more research, and on a clear and icy Sunday morning at the end of February they set out for their final journey. A four hour drive south, followed by three or more hours (she was not sure) of climbing. She had had to buy proper shoes and a new, weather-proof jacket. Herbert got to travel in a big shoe box in her backpack, with a final portion of his favorite cheese so he would not be too upset.

The view from the top of the mountain (or large hill, depending on what you were used to) was terrific. But Karen's hands and feet were frozen and started turning blue, and all she wanted to do was go home and curl up in her bed with a cup of hot chocolate. For the next three months. She was sad at the thought of losing Herbert. With stiff fingers, she pried the backpack open, took the box and carefully opened the lid.

"What have you been doing?"

Herbert looked at her with his huge, liquid gold eyes, and croaked softly. One corner of the box was black and smoking.

"Oh dear, I told you - no setting people on fire. That includes me!" Karen picked him up, and his heat hurt. While she looked at him with tears in her eyes, he seemed to grow, until he was almost as big as her torso. How had she gotten this beast up here? His beak looked dangerous, and he could probably break her spine with his huge, fire-colored wings. Her heart beat faster.

Herbert, unaware of the trouble he was causing his human, climbed up her arm and tried to settle on her shoulder - something for which he was by far too big meanwhile. Karen put her arm out so he wouldn't fall to the ground, and after some careful maneuvering Herbert sat on her outstretched arm, looking around curiously. She gave him the last bit of cheese. "Here you go, dear. Time to fly home."

He didn't look back. He took of and flew as if he had never done anything else. Karen watched him, feathers gleaming in the cold winter sunlight, almost as if Herbert was burning. Then she began her descend. Tomorrow would be a better day. Spring was coming.

Donnerstag, 14. Januar 2010

Unbreakable

"Wow, another one of those and my family will be living in a tent!" George shook his head and stared back at his house with a mixture of astonishment and distrust. Astonishment at the fact that the house was still standing after this thorough shaking, and distrust at the building's stability. The region had always been home to minor earth quakes, but during the last years frequency and strength had increased considerably. He turned back around to face his neighbor, Dave. "Seems you ended up lucky. Not even a scratch on your home, am I right?"

Dave nodded and left it at that. He had come here as a young man, more than fifty years ago, filled to the brim with stories and dreams and plans. Of all these, only the house had remained. His wife had left him two years ago, after almost half a century of marriage (and hadn't they been happy, he thought, he only remembered the good times), the children led their own lives and did not bother to call and fake interest in his old man life. But he had always hoped this house would outlast him, maybe give a home to his grandchildren sometimes. He had consulted every specialist he could find to make it as stable and unbreakable as possible.

Unfortunately, he had fallen in love with a part of the world that was not very safe. The earthquakes had bothered him the most. But he remembered there were things that could be done to prevent a house from collapsing, ever. Things his grandmother had told him when he was a kid, things he had read about in ancient books as a teenager on his quest for knowledge. So far, it had worked. Just as the ancient Germanic tribes had buried iron things under their doorsteps to keep the lightning at bay, so he had taken special precautions. Let others call it superstition... it was good no one believed in these things anymore, and hardly anyone seemed to know them. Like this, they would never, and should the search last for a hundred years, come to suspect him in their search.

And since the house would never fall apart (thanks to this special kind of magic), they would never find the child, buried beneath his unbreakable home, keeping him safe with the power of its soul.

Dienstag, 12. Januar 2010

On the other side of the wall

Kat did not know what to do. Her favourite ball had gone. Well, rather flown. Over the wall into the next garden, that was. One moment, she had been playing enthusiastically, the next moment a blue and green flurry had waved her good-bye and dropped out of sight.

Now, what was she supposed to do? Her parents had told her never to go into the neighbor's garden, and she knew exactly why - big signs all around the garden told her. "Beware of big dog." She had heard it, too, yowling at night sometimes, maybe a bit more often around the full moon, and she had always been afraid of what must be a terrible beast.

It was cold, and standing around thinking (with a finger in her nose, which never failed her when looking for good ideas) soon made Kat even colder. Her mother had packed her thoroughly, pink woolly hat and gloves and the blue jacket she also wore during ski vacation. Her long brown hair had been tucked under the hat, but had come out again after only a few minutes of running around. Kat didn't like the pink stuff, but her mother had insisted. "If you don't wear them, you won't go out. And don't let me catch you without them."

Snow flakes started drifting out of the sky, slowly, without sound. The garden was all covered in white already, and there were icicles hanging from the roof. It was getting darker. Kat knew that in a few minutes her mother would call her back inside, and her green and blue ball would probably be lost for got. She went to the back of the garden, where she could not be spotted from the kitchen window, and climbed up the old apple tree until she could see over the wall.

Kat never got her ball back. That afternoon, even bevore her mother had called her for dinner, she came running back inside, out of breath from playing outside, red cheeks, bright eyes. "I'm cold, I want to play in my room." Her mother checked to see whether Kat had developed a fever, but obviously everything was alright with the girl. Maybe it had simply gotten too cold. Or she had gotten tired of playing on her own, who knew? Eleven years, such a difficult age...

Kat had dinner with her family that night, then she went into her room to finish her homework. Later at night, she lay in bed, and it was dark and the tree outside her window kept tapping against the window pane with soft movements. Her heart was beating fast, and she did not dare close her eyes for fear of what might come haunt her in her dreams. She thought of what she had seen in the neighbor's garden - a barren place, no plants except for an old yew tree with some red berries where the birds hadn't picked them off already. A small hut in the far corner. A long rope leading from a metal ring in the wall to the throat of what might have been a young man, if it hadn't been for the fur. Standing upright, covered in coarse brownish-grey hair with dirty patches. He had no clothes, but didn't seem to mind the cold, and only partially hidden by the coarse hair, between crooked-shaped short legs, hung greyish genitalia that resembled nothing Kat had ever seen in her biology class books - shriveled and crooked and larger than she had imagined. Feet and hands ended in crooked claws, but other than that were perfectly human. The face had been distorted somehow, as if someone had modelled it from clay and smashed it because ha had not been happy with the results. The being - man - had held her ball in his hands and sniffed at it with interest showing plainly on the strange face. Then he had looked up and right at her face, showing about the wall. It had made a step in her direction, and Kat had dropped out of sight immediately. Surely the rope was not long enough for the - thing - to come over to her?

Kat's parents soon realized that their little girl was not intent on playing in the garden any more. She also did not want to help with planting and gardening any more - she said it was boring and that she did not like the garden. Instead, she stayed in her room or went outside to meet other children. They were growing up so fast...

Mittwoch, 6. Januar 2010

Desire

Work is almost over, and her hands are shaking. It has been - what, weeks? - since she last had some of it. She can't believe it. Her whole body is trembling slightly with the desire. Her concentration is in shreds. She stamps the last letters for today, signs off and almost runs to her car. Right now, she will drive home and ask her husband for it. He has to give it to her. He can't be that cruel.

It's her only weakness, she believes, and she was determined to end this addiction. Live healthier, cleaner, more free of all kinds of - sins. Like the minister keeps telling them at church.

You may not abuse your body.
Your body is a temple.
God does not want you to give in to the needs of your flesh.

But the craving has built up, up to a point where she thinks she cannot stand it another moment. At the traffic light, she almost runs into the local gardener's truck because her imagination is already swooning over the texture, the warmth - the endorphines that will follow. All she can think about is removing layer after layer, until she sees it, can feel it, run her tongue over and around it...

Home, finally. Her keys don't fit into the lock. Her hands are trembling even worse. She is going crazy. If she doesn't get any of it right now...

Her husband is standing in the kitchen, preparing dinner, as usual. he smiles at her. "Hello darling, how was your day at work?"

"Busy." She forces a smile onto her face. She does not want to talk right now. Her desires are more primitive. "Honey, tell me - where did you stash the chocolate my mother sent us last week?"

Dienstag, 5. Januar 2010

Garbage cans

Especially in winter it's really hard living out on the streets. Every year the police find dead people out here, frozen to the ground or to their beer bottles. No matter how many layers of clothing you wear, the cold gets you in the end.

That's why she keeps moving. Never stays in the same place for too long. Changes towns, habits, names. The collection of things she carries with her tells a story of its own. All the colors have been muddled to a mixture of grays and browns, and her long gray tangled hair blends in well with her disguise.

Tonight she is wandering the back streets of another nameless town. Rummaging through garbage cans, looking for treasures. A slice of stale pizza, an apple core - she ignores them. It is not food she is looking for. Or at least not this kind of food.

An envelope. Handwritten. A stamp with tiny flowers on it. It feels warm in her hands, but only for a moment. The wind plays with her hair and cuts the wrinkles off her face. It's like a memory, faded and long forgotten. She inhales - and it's gone.

A framed photograph, almost unrecognizable behind the scratches in the cheap plastic window. Carefully, she retrieves it from the bottom of the garbage can. The frame has a Mickey Mouse on it, and the picture is that of a man in a cheap brown suit. He is smiling at the camera. Who was this picture for, his son or daughter? She looks at it for a moment, squares her shoulders.

This can has nothing more to offer, so she stumbles on to the next one. The wind is getting harsher, and she turns her back on it to protect herself. Opens the lid and starts searching once more. The stench is disgusting.

And there it is. A charm bracelet, maybe from a magazine or a flea market originally, loaded with memory and emotion. She grips it firmly, holds it to her chest - summer air, birds and flowers, the first kiss and all the misery that followed. No surprise the owner didn't want to keep this. But for her it's perfect. She closes the garbage an carefully, in case one of her fellow travelers may want some of the spoiled food, and walks towards the street lights that have just come to life again for the night. Her brown hair gleams in the yellow light, and she rounds the corner and is gone.

Sonntag, 3. Januar 2010

Three sisters

Three sisters living in a well
Floating blue, green, purple hair
Singing of the men who fell
For them and why and where

[I know there's a story hidden behind this, brought it back from last night's dream poem-shaped like this... but I have to put it somewhere until I get the rest of the story.]