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.