Samstag, 31. Dezember 2011

Happy New Year

The old one is frail and thin and grey, worn out and tired. Hands tight on his back, bent in on himself. There are lines of laughter on his face and lines of sorrow, and it is hard to tell of which kind there are more.

The judge looks at him, sternly, "What have you done? What are your achievements?"

The prosecuter starts his litany: Starving children, dead innocents, injustice galore. Wars and accidents and man-made catastrophes. Radiation everywhere, disappearing animals.

The old one says nothing. All he wants is to be done, and to rest. He remembers the time when he was young and energetic, like a racing horse at the start, and everybody loved him - for he was about to change everything around by 180°, he was the one who would make everything allright. And then he came and started his designated course, and somehow he was forgotten, although he was there all the time. Only now, that he is about to lie down and be done do people remember him, and they look at him and mostly blame him for what they perceive to be his misdeeds.

The jury's decision comes quick. He is led to the block, lies down peacefully, eyes facing upward. At the sideline he sees his successor waiting for the signal, all buzzed up and excited. Little does he know, hewill end up just the same. The old one turns his eyes upward again, looking at the guillotine that will put him out of his misery.

Ten, nine, eight, ...

He exhales and smiles.

..., three-two-one - HAPPY NEW YEAR!

The blow is hard, and everything is over in an instance.

Freitag, 30. Dezember 2011

Colors and stars

Standing in the field on the hill, he feels the cold biting his bare skin. The grass is wet and cold beneath his feet. Darkness hides him like a cloak, even more so with the lights the other people are watching. He throws his head back with delight as the first chemical stars fill the night sky above his head. Entering the new year with nothing on himself, he figures it can only get better.


Donnerstag, 29. Dezember 2011

Crystal bridges

Winter is not the best time for travelling, but some places can only be reached via bridges formed from ice.

Mittwoch, 28. Dezember 2011

Fire bird

Once upon a time, when the earth was young and lay in darkness, the firebirds roamed the universe, and the humans on earth would admire the shooting beams of light they saw up in the sky during their lives of eternal darkness.

One day, or one night, maybe, because it was hard to tell in the darkness, something fell from the sky. The humans hurried, and in the middle of a crater, still glowing and shot through with red, pulsing veins, there lay an egg, only as small as a human head. Quarrels ensued over what to do with this treasure, and finally the medicine men and women of the different tribes decided that it would be best to bury the egg, for there had been families destroyed and people killed over a thing as simple as this.

And so it was done. The braves warrior took the egg and crawled into the caves leading to the center of the earth, and there he deposited the egg. Upon his return, he would not speak of the miracles he had seen on his journey, but his hair had gone white and his left arm had withered away to leave nothing behind but dry leathery skin and fragile bones.

But there was a fire bird looking for her egg, and desperately doing so. She felt the pull towards this tiny and insignificant planet, but the egg was nowhere to be seen. So she started circling the planet, changing her path ever so slightly, looking for her unborn child. And thus the light of day was born.

Dienstag, 27. Dezember 2011

Like an Egyptian

Nature is confused, the weatherman says on TV. Blossoming trees in December, fresh leaves on the branches.

Nature has lost its nuts, the newspapers title. They are obviously proud of their witty remark.

I sit at the window, watching this unusual season. Without frost, the parasites won't die. There will be plagues. Crops will fail because we have not gotten used to the new crop cycles. We have poisoned the rivers, now the waters run red. We have changed the weather, we will harvest myriards of insects instead of food. A super-virus has escaped from the secret laboratories - they invented it so they could find out how to avoid pandemics. Sadly, no vaccination was found before the "accident".

The birds sitting on the branches have started nesting. They do not ask questions, they embrace what is and take their chances. We have abandoned the wheel of the year, and in response we are swallowed by mother nature.

I light my Yule candle and wait for change.

Montag, 26. Dezember 2011

Yule magic

As he stands and watches their house burn to the ground, he cannot help but wonder if that Light and Warmth Yule rite he performed may have been a bit too enthusiastic.

Sonntag, 25. Dezember 2011

Something useful

The hints had not worked. As usual. She had pointed at those cute pink earrings and giggled, "Look, aren't they gorgeous? They would match my new dress perfectly!"

And he had gotten her something for the kitchen. Again. Last year it had been a new pan, designed for low-fat cooking. The year before, he had gotten her an apron and matching oven mits. The year before that, a set of cookpots. Then there were the hand-held mixer, the meat thermometer and the "good plates" with the ivy design she hated so much. The list went on. Every year.

Well, at least this time he had gotten her something she could use. Tiptoing from the bedroom, she held the steak knife at her side, gingerly, trying not to get any blood on that ugly apron. It was too early to call the kids' families to wish them merry christmas. She would relax and have a hot chocolate first.

Samstag, 24. Dezember 2011

Bone tree

In the beginning, there were no trees.

There were huge constructions made from the enemies' bones, piles growing towards the sky, and the enemies' jewelry hanging from the ghastly "branches". Days were spent compiling the sacrifice together, to show the gods what the year had brought, what had been achieved. Some bones were already dry and whitish, others still held strands of raw red meat and spread a unique smell through the hall.

Everybody was merry. There was beer and mead and roast, songs and naked limbs. And over all, the bone tree presided, and the gods watched and laughed.

Freitag, 23. Dezember 2011

Realities

One moment you are sitting in your room, single candle lit, staring out of the window at a night that should be magical, but only manages rainy and cold.

The next moment you are standing in the forest, wrapped in dark grey fur, preparing for the hunt.

Which one is you?

Donnerstag, 22. Dezember 2011

Christmas delivery service

"There is no snow", Samantha said. "How is Santa going to get here without snow?"

It took me a moment to understand what this was about. I must have looked puzzled, because she gave her impatient sigh that indicated, 'I am only five and can understand this, so why can't you?'

"Mummy, the sleigh!"

Oh, that. "Well, uhm... maybe Santa can ride on one of his reindeer?"

"And what about the presents?"

"He could use a carriage."

Samantha was not convinced. I could tell, although she did not respond. Of course she was not convinced, after all there was not a single image to be found of Santa in a carriage. And the poor reindeer, I mused, who would have to carry that fat bloke. I turned to face the tree in an attempt to hide my thoughts from her.

We were late, only putting up the tree on the 24th. There almost would not have been a tree at all, but I would be damned if I let the situation ruin my kid's christmas. The year had been tough enough as it was, and this was the only bit of magic left for her. A year or two from now and she would not buy into this stuff anymore, either. I wondered how I was going to distract her then.

It was getting dark by the time we finished putting lights and glittery bits on the tree, and the smell of pizza coming from the oven made my stomach growl. Sam had requested a special treat, and this was her idea of proper holiday food. Her grandmothers most likely would not have approved, but I was not planning on seeing either of them any time soon. If my girl wanted pizza, then pizza it was. I switched on the christmas tree lights, and we stood in the dark and admired our tree.

There was a sharp knock at the door, and when I went to open it, my ex stood on the front porch. Sam's father. The guy who had run off because he "was not ready for this". The guy whose mother had taken it upon her to inform me, back in September, that his new girlfriend was "classy" - something I really did not qualify for.

"What are you doing here?" I glanced over my shoulder to see whether there was any chance of getting out of this unharmed, but that very moment Samantha returned from the kitchen, her tiny hands in oven mits way too large for her, and squealed. "Daddy!"

He switched on that big smile and scooped her up as if she weighed nothing at all. "Hi there. Santa got stuck in traffic and asked me to deliver a few presents to a special little girl."

"Really?"

He nodded. "Really."

I gave up. "Come inside. There's pizza."

"Pizza?" Raised eyebrow.

"Christmas pizza!" Sam exclaimed. "All red and green, and with white cheese and sour cream!" She had even gone to the trouble to cut the salami in tree-shapes. It was a festive pizza.

He put Sam down and followed me into the kitchen.

"Don't you have anything better to do tonight?" I asked and pulled the pizza from the oven.

"Nothing special." He shrugged.

"This does not change a damn thing between us", I insisted.

"I didn't think it would."

Okay, then... "Put your jacket away. You are going to melt. I wouldn't know how to explain that to Sam."

He obeyed with that slightly amused expression - the one I had always loved and hated at the same time. I couldn't help but watch his backside as he went back into the livingroom. Great. Some habits are hard to kill.

While they were busy putting stuff under the tree, I put two mugs of mulled wine in the microwave. God knew I could use a drink right now. I leaned against the counter and stared out of the window, trying to find out how I felt about all this. The sky was black, and against the lights coming from the neighbors' property I could see huge snowflakes gliding down towards the ground.

Fine. He could always sleep on the sofa.

Mittwoch, 21. Dezember 2011

A flash of red

There is no snow, yet it is very cold. The grass wears millions of tiniest crystals. With the street behind you, you can hear the occasional whoooshhhhhh of a car going by, too early, too fast, who knows where.

The sky is colorless and dark. Hunched in upon yourself, you sit and wait, patiently, with the taste of sleep on the back of your throat because you were too tired to brush your teeth, too tired to brew some coffee "to go" to keep warm.

This year, you promised yourself, you would do this. Between the madness that is the holidays in your family and the stress and the drama, you made a vow to catch the first rays of winter sun. You kiond of regret this now. But so many people have let you down, and you will not be one of them.

A flash of red, inconspicuous enough to be missed if one had blinked. You are not even sure it was there, actually. Maybe this is all one giant self-delusion, the biggest waste of time. Like when you believed in Santa as a kid.

The sun comes up fast, caressing the mountaintops. It will only be a short visit to earth today, the shortest of the year, and darkness and cold will hold you in their grip for many more days to come.

Time to go home. Time for coffee and tea and hot porridge, and to embrace what is.

Freitag, 25. November 2011

Underground

The dragon sleeps. Deep beneath the trees, and the roots, and the stone that lies beneath the roots of the trees. The caves that led down to his chambers of treasures collapsed long ago.

Jewels glint under the glow of the dragon's breath. It is warm, and smells of sulphur. Sometimes the dragon opens one eye, slowly, and then drifts into dream land once more. It is not hungry, yet.

The dragon sleeps. How long?

Samstag, 12. November 2011

Meat

If he shouts at her one more time, she is going to explode. All day she has been at home, cleaning and scrubbing, to make him comfortable, while he is out in the world earning the money - and a reputation as tough car dealer. Her hands are red and raw from the hot water and strong detergents she uses, because he is afraid of germs. Every fragrant corner of the house sparkles - except for her room, which is really a kind-of built-in closet and filled with everything that does not have a place anywhere else. Her crafts stuff must be in there, she is almost sure, but she hasn't had time to use any of it in months. The church committee asked her to contribute to the annual basar, but she knows she won't have the time, and so she only smiled and vaguely offered, "I will check with my husband."
"I am home! Is dinner ready?" The front door slams shut, and she hurries from the kitchen to greet him with the traditional glass of bourbon to celebrate another day well spent. Outside the home. She smiles and leans in to give him a kiss on the cheek, but he shoves her away. "You smell like toilet cleaner." He tosses his jacket on the armchair, grabs the bourbon and empties the glass with one gulp. "Another one."
Quietly, she gathers up his things and puts them in the right places. Then she hurries to get the bottle.
He is watching her, sitting in his favorite spot by the window. "You have got such a great life, my love. I wish I could stay at home and enjoy myself all day, you know." Another sip of bourbon. "Alas, I have got to go out and earn the money to make my little wife comfortable, so she doesn't have to try and stand on her own feet. That's what I promised your Dad, remember?"
Breathe, she tells herself, and smiles again. The same story, over and over again. In hindsight, she can see all the paths she did not take, all the big red EMERGENCY signs she chose to ignore. She was in love, right? And he promised her he would take care of her, keep her safe. Someone should have whacked her over the head the day she decided not to go to college. Give her a good concussion, hope for amnesia and tell her she is a man-hating career woman. That would have been perfect.
What's that smell?
OH SHIT. She hurries into the kitchen and pulls the roast from the oven. Almost perfect. A little dark on top, but most of it should be perfectly edible.
"What the hell have you done?" Of course he has followed her into the kitchen. He has a sixth sense for everything that goes wrong. "Can't you even be trusted with a simple piece of meat? That's expensive food, you moron!"
She stands in the kitchen and breathes, the smell of burnt meat and spices in her nose, heavy casserole in her hands. And suddenly breathing isn't enough.

The basar is a lively place, coats and hats dancing everywhere, but no single person will leave the place tonight without praising her delicious meat pasties. They are brown and crisp and just about perfect. She feels the looks of the other women, whose foods remain neglected, and smiles.
The preacher grabs yet another pasty and digs right in. Juice runs down his chubby chin, and he smiles. "These are divine. You should have been a chef."
"Oh, I wouldn't know of that. Of course now that my husband has run off..."
His sympathetic eyes do not match the greedy expression of his face as he finishes the pasty and tries to decide whether he can still have another one. "You're a temptress, with those pasties. By the way, what kind of meat is in there? We've got some Muslim visitors, from the store down main street, and I was wondering..."
"No pig", she assures him. Well, not scientifically speaking, anyway.
Maybe she should become a professional cook indeed.

Freitag, 28. Oktober 2011

Not a story, still writing


[I know, I missed several story-writing occasions I had intended to participate in. Strange thing, with me being on vacation. But, and that is the marvellous part, I am only two scenes away from finally(!!!) completing my novel manuscript - the story I have been in love with since I was a child, and which took me several years to write and which will end up with 90,000 words - I had aimed for 70K in a first draft, but obviously there was more to it. Tomorrow I will once more get up early and hopefully put everything where it belongs. Of course afterwards I will still have to go through the whole thing and polish it, smooth edges and overlaps and such, but right now I am tired in a happy way. Just thought I'd let you know, in case you were wondering what I was up to. In the meantime you can still admire our tomcat.]

Donnerstag, 13. Oktober 2011

People

The people recovered quickly from the outspread of the zombie virus. It was really surprising. No panic, no riots, no mob destroying the cities. Maybe it helped that the epidemic spread slowly, and there were - no, not incubation periods, more like long periods of slow transition. The people would die, conscious all the time, except for the fact that they would not be dead by the end. Eventually, though, they would rot and disappear. Once the flesh was off their bones, they simply stopped.

Of course there were the usual ultra-right nationalist calls for extinction of "these monstrosities". But the churches jumped right at the chance. If cities sent out zombie exterminators now, what would be next? Killing Alzheimer patients? Now, as formerly healthy human beings zombies deserved the respect of the population. And so they gathered them in larger nurseries and offered prison inmates sentenced to life the opportunity to serve a certain number of years as nursery staff, and after that their crimes were forgotten and they were free to go. Unless they were bitten first, of course.

And this was the place where they had brought Aunt Hanna. My therapist had suggested confronting her about her strict rules and frequent physical punishment inflicted on me and my sisters when we were children. The fact that she was, as some philosophers argued, dead didn't change the value of such a confrontation. Or that was the idea. Personally, I did not feel too hot about going in there now. I couldn't even stand visiting my grandparents at their senior people's residence, and now this? Wow.

My therapist looked at me expectantly. Obviously she was very pleased with herself for coming up with this. I couldn't even begin to imagine how much work it must have cost her to find Aunt Hanna. After all, the personal information on the zombies - uhm, life-wise challenged was kept top secret, to avoid requests by life insurance companies or such. Fresh zombies were simply declared dead and brought here, if they could be caught.

The walls of the visitors' room were pale green - the kind of color you expect in hospitals. Dark smudges were spread evenly, as if someone had put their hands in molten chocolate (or something else) and then leaned against the wall. I sat down on an uncomfortable orange plastic chair, still wearing my trusted leather jacket, when they brought Aunt Hanna inside.

She was the model for any zombie horror movie I had ever seen. One of her eyes had shriveled and lay in its socket like a sad raisin. The other one wandered as if trying to take in her surroundings, but it was milky and just plain wrong. Her skin looked like pork left out of the fridge over the weekend, blueish gray and smeary. She had been dressed in simple pajamas, probably by the six-foot monstrosity of a nurse who accompanied her, tattoed arms crossed over his ginormous chest. His head was shaved, his stare deadly, and I watched with surprise just how tender and gentle he was with my aunt. Okay, maybe he was just trying not to rip the flesh off her arm while carefully lowering her into her chair. There was a wet sound as she relaxed and leaned back. The front of her shirt clung to what once probably had been breasts.

I shook my head. This was absurd. Memories danced through my head, of afternoons spent in the closet, of homework forgotten and of the wooden spoon she sometimes used for cooking. "I forgive you", I mumbled and jumped to my feet, and then I left the room quickly. To any spectator it might have looked as if I was running away. My therapist had a hard time catching up. She was quiet as we returned to my car. Someone had slapped a sticker on my bumper. It read, "Zombies are people, too."


Freitag, 7. Oktober 2011

Boys will be boys

"Hey Teddy, are you home?"

Sarah slammed the front door shut and slung her purse across the hallway. With a soft THUD it landed on the pile of shoes and stuff which usually accumulated during the week. She'd clean it away tomorrow. Maybe. Having to choose between spending time with her precious little boy and a tidy home... well, if there was something like Judgement Day, God would probably frown more about a neglected child than about a messy kitchen. (And if he didn't, she didn't want to stay with him anyway.)

She hesitated, confused by the silence. Usually Teddy would fling himself down the stairs and right into her arms, never doubting for even an instant that Mommy would catch him. No matter how tired she was after a long work day or how extravagant the tune he decided to play on his mother's nerves, he knew she loved him and would never let him down. After all, he was the guy in her life, right?

With a sight, Sarah took off her high heels and padded upstairs to look for her boy. The door to his room was halfway open, light from the street lantern in front of the window tinting the carpet a sickly orange. A few toys lay scattered across the floor. What a relief to see a normal kid's room. In some ways, Teddy was just like all the big managers Sarah had to cope with all day long - selfish, childish, never bothering to pick up his stuff.

Teddy sat on his bed, looking at her with huge dark eyes. "Mommy, am I in trouble?"

She hugged him and smiled. "I don't know, what did you do?"

He did not hug her back. Instead, he handed her a crumpled piece of paper. "The teacher gave me a letter for you to sign. She said you need to talk."

Poor Teddy. He was used to being teased and being in trouble, and he constantly felt the need to prove himself in front of the other children. Sarah had never imagined it would be so tough for him to grow up without a father. Or at least not the usual kind of father. One could say that Teddy had been an accident - or maybe an unexpected gift. Sarah had been in college, a wild girl, and her experiments had included everything from beer to weird-looking plants her friends had bought in dark, shabby stores off main street. And her final, particularly wild trip, the one which caused her to vow never to take anything more sinister than Aspirin ever again, had somehow resulted in this cute little man, who was just like any other child, and yet so unique. Sarah remembered the look on her midwife's face when she had given her the tiny baby - surprise and awe and horror, all mixed into one.

She took her time to read the letter without switching on the overhead lamp. ... lack of discipline and modesty... got undressed inside the classroom... inappropriate use of Halloween equipment not approved by school rules... It took her a moment to understand what the teacher was talking about. Halloween equipment? No wonder that her little boy was upset!

Sarah turned around and hugged her son once more. She could feel the tiny bulges moving underneath his shirt. "Don't worry, honey. I'll talk to your teacher." She gave him an extra squeeze. "But how often have I told you? No tentacles at school!"

Freitag, 30. September 2011

Fairies

"So, how are we feeling today?"

She sighs. Always the same question to start the session. Always. And not a very good question, either. "I don't know how you are feeling, but I am fine. A little tired perhaps."

The professor smiles, but it is not honest. She knows how to read people. "The nurses report that you have made good progress. No more hallucinations? No more - visits from fairies?"

She shakes her head, then looks at her hands folded peacefully in her lap. The fabric of her skirt is worn, but she takes great pride in being neat and clean at all times. Even here. She smoothes a tiny crease in the brown cotton and raises her gaze to meet his once more. "Everything has been as ordinary as can be."

He writes something on his chart, asks a few more stupid questions. Then he stands up, signalling that their session is over. He shakes her hand. "In that case, I really do not see any reason why we should keep you here any longer."

She smiles, takes his hand, careful not to let anything show. The last rays of summer sunlight pass the trees outside the window, cross the room and paint dancing shadows on the wall. They stole a whole season from her, just because her son-in-law claimed she was crazy. Told everybody she was hallucinating and running through the wood at night, naked. She will have to have a word with her daughter. Can't let her grandchildren grow up around someone as narrow-minded as that.

The bat-like shape sitting on the branch closest to the window winks. She makes an effort not to look directly at it, so as not to let anyone see that she is SEEING. "Then, if it is okay with you, I will gather my things. When can I leave?"

"The nurses will call a cab for you, I'll hand them your discharge report. Do you want to call anyone? Family, friends?"

"No, it will be a nice surprise." Especially for that dork her daughter married. The next dark moon, he will be hers.

Dienstag, 27. September 2011

Best intentions

The big dark desk sitting at the opposite wall of the large office is meant to be intimidating, and it works just fine. If it weren't for the coffee stains on the cream-colored carpet, I might be soiling my pants at what I am about to do.

"Sir, I don't mean to be disrespectful, but... you might want to reconsider your behavior towards your employees."

He smiles, a friendly smile that is known to breed terror in everyone who has to work with him. "Why, what is wrong with that?"

"Well, Sir... I have found that my colleagues are getting restless and anxious, and they are showing stress-related behavior. The contact with our clients and their... high demands is eating away at them." That is not exactly what I want to say, but I do not know how else to paraphrase it in a polite way.

"If they are not happy working here, they can go and find another job."

"Uhm... it is not that they are not happy, but they are... changing." No, that's not the real thing, either. But I realize that my good intentions were wasted.

"Anything else you would like to say?"

"No, I guess that's it." I smile and make my way back out of the room, always keeping an eye on doors and windows. This is the top floor, and it is still peaceful, and to keep it this way for a little longer I carefully close the frosted glass door.

The two-by-four I brought up with me is still leaning against the wall, looking inconspicuous except for the small dark stain at the top. My heart is racing. It is just three sets of stairs, I tell myself, and a few steps, then you're out the door. Let the others deal with this madness on their own, and in their own way. Most likely they are still trying to find their way around fax machines and printers and computers, all the while nibbling whatever they find that contains warm blood. If it weren't for the glaring sun outside, neither the squirrels nor the weird neighbors would be safe. I worry more about the squirrels, although there is still hope they will be too fast to be caught.

The IT guy comes shambling up the stairs. He is one of the first to have mastered the way up, despite not having been infected for several hours. His lower jaw is dislocated - no, not really dislocated, it's dangling from his face by a few strands of decaying tissue. Rot seems to spread fast among them, as if moving speeds up the process with dead meat. Or maybe it's just the dead-ness mixing with all the other germs our clients drag inside from their hospital stays.

The two-by-four connects with his skull and sends him flying down the stairs. I race past the scrambling body, down to ground level, press the button and squeeze myself through the gate as it is already starting to close again. The metal bars won't hold them in forever, but nothing wrong with getting a head start.

I always suspected this job would turn everybody into office zombies.

Freitag, 23. September 2011

Beasts and shadows

You cannot outrun your shadow. No matter what you do, he is always just one step behind you. And the moment you turn around, he wins.

He tried not to look back, but he suspected they were catching up. The rustling leaves indicated that there was someone - something - behind him, and he doubted that these woods held any kind of normal life... not after what he had seen. If only he hadn't decided to hike through these parts of the mountains. If only his uncle hadn't told all these stories about how exciting backpacking was! If only... - well, there were many 'if's, but nothing that would help him now. The only way out was finding a village, with normal people and heavily armed police. And for that, he had to be faster than the ones behind him. The only way out was up the mountain.

He forced himself to move, on all four if necessary, stumbling as stones shifted under his hands and rumbled down the mountain's flank. His fingers bled. He didn't care. Pain and exhaustion formed a constant rhythm to which he moved forward. The higher he got, the more the underbursh became thin and neglected, until there were just a few branches left sticking from the dirt, not enough to hide behind and not enough to keep his chasers back. If only he could make it over the ridge... the sun started to sink behind the rocks, and he inhaled, bracing himself for one final sprint. He would be an easy target until he made it across the open space, to disappear on the other side, and he hoped that there was vegetation waiting for him to hide between.

There was no vegetation. Instead, the ground disappeared. What he had considered to be the top of the mountain was, seen from the ground beneath, a hundred feet drop, a spectacular motif for pictures. The sunlight hit him as he fell and outlined his body twisting in panic.

The creatures stopped, perplexed. They looked at each other and shook their heads sadly. These strange humans... it was not the first time that this had happened. Why would they never stay for dinner? That guy had been just on time, they had just started to gut the deer they had caught for dinner. Not a pleasant sight, sure, but not really a reason to jump off the cliff. Slowly they made their way back to their prey, tentacles gliding over the rocks with ease, leaving glistening black trails that might be blood, or might be something else.

Samstag, 10. September 2011

Sorry!!!

He eyed the girl behind the counter. "Wow, you're a fat chick!"

She smiled sweetly. "And you're only five feet tall, so what?"





[Sorry, sorry, sorry, that popped up in my head when I went running yesterday and I did not want to lose it... it may be going into one of my stories, but it made me laugh, and I wanted to share right away. (^v^) ]

Montag, 5. September 2011

The mountains of life

Only a word, and yet... it makes me feel tiny. Suddenly it is as if I could merely see the sunlight at mouth of the cave behind the teeth of which I am locked away. My self shrinks. I feel it pull at my outside, making me even smaller, trying to make me disappear. Part of me is hiding in the dark, out in plain sight. And now it dawns on me: I am making myself the victim. Breath by breath, I close the gaps between core and skin. The secret to life: Keep breathing, the pain will go away.

Freitag, 26. August 2011

FridayFlash: Killer Weddings (Part II)

[Sorry I left you waiting, life has been incredibly busy, work and germs had me totally knocked out! Now, let's see what is happening next...]

Part I

The first few weeks of the wedding went by without much adventure, much to the dismay of everybody who had money in this business. There was no honey moon vacation, and the Jaguar the bride had ordered as a surprise wedding gift for her husband stood in the garage, already being covered under a fine coat of yellow summer dust. It soon became clear that no one of them was taking any chances.

"Why doesn't he make a move?" Bill complained at the drug store.

The girl behind the counter put his vitamins in a tiny plastic bag and shook her head. "If anything, it will be the girl who comes out. We should be very, very nice to our new mistress."

No one out on the streets realized how much hard work went into surviving.

Sarah, the bride, had not only bought her husband Phil a Jaguar. She had also replaced the cook and stubbornly refused to go for a ride in the countryside, despite her love for horses and the beautiful weather. And Phil continued to use his trusted station wagon and never ate a thing before Sarah had put the first bite in her mouth. Some evenings the soup would grow cold between them, and they would both smile and go to bed hungry, pretending that everything was all right.

It was weird.

Phil found himself strangely attached to the future late Mrs. Van Hagen. She was clever, and funny, and a great lover. Thinking of her sunkissed body in the moonlight, a wordless invitation to join her on the white linnen sheets, could disrupt his actions any time of day. Soon there was not a single room they had not loved each other in, often with great haste to avoid being detected by the servants. And when Phil realized he would not tire of this any time soon, he knew what he had to do.

They divorced. A lawyer drew a contract stating that they would both be provided for, as would their unborn child - because at that time Sarah was pregnant and glowing with joy - and whoever outlived the other would inherit everything. Phil kept the house and the Jaguar (which Sarah advised him to have checked, thoroughly). Tight rules were laid down concerning their respective future marriages.

The townspeople were fairly disappointed. All the money they had bet sat there for months, before Ava came up with the idea to give it to the library, since no one had won and it did not seem right to just hand everything back. The library got a new roof and several shelves filled with new books, and soon everything was back to normal, and Phil Van Hagen was engaged again.

Freitag, 12. August 2011

FridayFlash: Killer Weddings (Part I)

[This was supposed to be the beginning of a longer story, which didn't work out as planned. In fact, the ending refuses to happen. I'll try to find out what happened by next Friday. ^^ ]

By the time bride and groom were ready to meet at the altar, the bets went through the roof. Everybody was on their feet, hoping to get a good look at the couple before one of them bit the dust. Which one – well, that was what the bets were all about.
Gold digging had always been a perfectly acceptable pass-time in these parts of the country. In fact, it was why the first settlers had come here, after all. But then, after a few decades of “yellow stone madness”, as the locals called it, there had been no more riches in the ground, and thus gold diggers had turned to other sources for wealth and adventures.
Some families were better at it than others, and the two that were about to join in temporary matrimonial bliss were said to be among the best. The groom was local, a well-liked fellow with good looks, whom the other men had great trouble keeping their sisters away from. He had that certain smile, the one that said, “This time it is all going to be different, because of you”. Of course that smile was a lie, as was evident from the graves in the family cemetery, showing of names and engraved pictures of his first three wives – “beloved and never to be forgotten”. He was preparing for his fourth marriage at the age of thirty-nine.
The bride, on the other hand, was a mystery. She was from a town not too far away, but no one had seen her. It had been determined she would arrive today, all set and ready, right before the ceremony. She obviously had a sense for drama, and from the fact that she, too, had already buried a couple of husbands, it seemed likely that this would not be the usual “kiss her, kill her” episode of everyday life in gold digger country. There had been rumors about her appearance, but not even the newspaper guys had gotten hold of a decent picture. The only thing in the newspaper, a few weeks back, when the preparations for the celebration had just begun, had been a clipping from her high school yearbook, in which she looked bewildered and fragile and very, very blond. She was thirty-two, wealthy and said to be a good golf player and hunter.
The streets had been sprinkled with water to keep away the clouds of dust, and volunteers had taken it upon themselves to water the plants along the main road every day for the last two weeks, so everything would look green and fresh. “We should welcome the new lady as best we can”, Bill Thrumps said. “Who knows, maybe she will inherit his share of the town.”
“No way”, Ava spat, “he’ll come out of this as handsome and relaxed as ever. We should start collecting money for her funeral flowers already.”
“Wanna bet?” Bill dug his wallet out of his pocket. “Thirty bucks says he’ll be a grieving widower in less than a month.”
They shook hands and smiled at each other with grim determination.

Donnerstag, 14. Juli 2011

Silence

[A few days ago I sat at my desk in the early morning and, instead of writing the story I was supposed to write, came up with this drabble. I thought some of you might appreciate it, and for the others... well, reading one hundred words doesn't take up much of your time. I hope you enjoy it!]

From up here, everything looks normal. There is no sign of existence or disappearance of our fellow humans. But communication has been dead for days. Maybe it is just a technical glitch. But the news, last bits we heard… unexplained deaths in Africa, Asia, then Europe. US government trying desperately to keep the threat on the other side of the ocean, without success. Maybe it arrived via Mexico, along with housekeepers and construction workers without papers. The disease spread. People died. From space, everything seems pretty normal. Except for the silence. I look at the stars, distant and indifferent. Beautiful.

Freitag, 8. Juli 2011

A night out with Kevin

"Wouldn't it be cool if there were aliens among us, watching, as in the movie?" Kevin is excited, as I knew he would be. He must have been the last person in the western hemisphere to not have seen "War of the worlds". Great movie, despite Tom Cruise. Can't stand that guy.

And now he is all over the place with ideas. Kevin, that is. Wouldn't know about Mr. Scientology.

You have to know, Kevin is a bit slow. With everything. His family lived across the street from my mother, and my mother made me befriend him. As a kid, I hated it. All the cool kids were making fun of Kevin when he sat in their garden, watching the world with a smile. And I was forced to go over, drag him out into the world and protect him there. Well, somehow he stuck with me, and although I am pretty busy these days, I think I would miss him. My suit is wrinkled after a long day at the office, my back feels as if someone bent me into a pretzel, the tiny cinema was loud and dirty and uncomfortable, but Kevin smiles, and that is about everything I care about right now. He's one of the good guys.

"Don't know about you, man, but I'd crap my pants." I point in the right direction. "The car's that way, I think."

We walk down the road, make it a game not to step onto the cracks in the pavement. Kevin likes this kind of stuff. He may look dangerous - he's as huge as a mountain! But deep inside, he is as soft as a new-born puppy. Sometimes he stops, head back, and watches the moths dancing through the cascades of yellow light washing over us. His eyes are almost black, and his crooked teeth look quite orange. He's always been fascinated with insects, and has got quite a collection at home. It used to creep me out, just as his collection of chicken bones which he kept in the desk drawer, but I am cool with it now. Way more interesting than collecting stamps, I'd say.

It's a short way home, and I let Kevin's happy ramblings wash over me without paying attention. The streets are deserted, so we pull up at his home after just a few minutes, and somehow I feel reluctant to let him go inside. A grown-up guy shouldn't live like this. I'm not sure what to do about it, though. "Say hi to your mother", I offer, weakly. Then I wait for him to reach his door, weave, and drive off.

My flat is waiting, all dark and chaotic, and as I drive through the familiar streets I think about Kevin's day-to-day life. Must be strange, in that quiet place, with the decaying mother in the rocking chair. He says he didn't harm her, and I kind of believe him.

Freitag, 17. Juni 2011

Thunderbird Rock

Steve clung to the rock. He had no memory of how he got there, or why. Something about thunderbirds... His fingers hurt, his legs cramped. Wind ripped his head back, using his hair as a handle.

A quick glance down revealed that, yes, this was pretty high up. And although he did not know what he was doing, he knew he was not yet on his way back to solid ground yet. Slowly his left feet abandoned the rock, searching for any kind of support to continue his journey.

Giant shadows circled above him, dancing with the lightning beneath the dark gray clouds. Their cries echoed through the canyon. All Steve could make out was their shape. Curved giant beaks tore at the sky when the birds shrieked, and each cry coaxed the darkness further into the day.

He advanced slowly, trying to remain invisible. Soon his bare chest was covered in tiny red rivulets from where the glinting rock hat slashed at his skin. It was almost as if the mountain did not want to be climbed. Steve's heart raced. He had never done anything like this before, but he knew he had to reach the top... and the nests that had to be waiting for him. Everything else was a blur in his mind, with his goal a burning focus in the center.

With a mighty swooosh one of the giant bird shapes fell from the sky and shrieked past him. Steve glanced over his shoulder and saw a shadow tumbling towards the ground, head first. What was happening? The birds above him weaved through light and darkness, ever faster and faster. As he advanced, he could make out the marks on their feathers and the glow in their eyes. The air was charged with electricity, and whenever lightning struck the mountaintop, Steve felt a tiny jolt running through his fingers and down his sweating and bleeding body. His breath quickened as he realized that not only was he gaining height, albeit step by painful step, but that at the same times the birds were losing altitude, and that they were destined to meet. A foul taste coated the back of his throat.

Finally, with a mighty struggle, he reached the top and clamped his fingers into the ledge. The thunderbirds’ stares burned his back. One of them swooped down and attacked him, leaving deep marks in his back. Steve yelled in pain. He clung to the rock, advanced. His muscled belly scraped over the edge and he lay on flat stone, panting. Every inch of him felt bruised – and he had to go all the way back down! But…

It had been worth the effort. Huge nests made from dark brown and black bushes covered almost every foot of the plateau. Stinking dead carcasses lay scattered between them in varying stages of decay. He saw what he thought were dead sheep and cows – and humans. Scared, he jumped to his feet and raced over to the closest nest, which was empty. But the next held what he realized he had come for. Glowing with a red pulse, there lay three eggs, not larger than his fist. They were pure magic. Steve grabbed one, turned around and ran.

The thunderbird was waiting for him. Sparks danced through its eyes and over its feathered body. It threw back its head and shrieked. Steve’s head threatened to explode with pain. He fell to his knees, and the bird’s talons knocked him over. He screamed and fell…

… and was greeted by the ticking alarm clock on his nightstand. His head hurt. He must have knocked it against the wooden headboard. What a weird dream! His body ached as if he had fought an army of birds. And what were thunderbirds, by all means?

His fingers fumbled for the light switch, and then he paused. He was sure to find out, eventually. Beside his bed, pulsating with a dull red, there lay something which might have been a stone, or might have been an egg. Steve looked at it and felt a strange excited fear in the pit of his stomach. He lifted his hand and reached for the egg. Tiny lightning danced through his vision. The egg was almost hot to the touch. Steve smiled. That was so cool!

He had no idea what he had done.

Donnerstag, 9. Juni 2011

Porn

[I thought I had put this here before, but it seems if I did I cannot find it. Either way, I'll be out of town for a few days and thought I'd leave you with a short #FridayFlash.]

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, 4. Juni 2011

Gutter Santa

The main streets had been busy, and it had frightened Sarah so much that she had forgotten not to lose her mother. And now here she was, in a back street, with the sky growing darker high up above the shabby buildings surrounding her.

They had been on a noble quest – exchanging Christmas gifts for things they really wanted. Sarah’s mother had insisted on taking her along since the babysitter was still visiting with her family. Sarah would have preferred to stay at home and play with her new doll, she was afraid of all these people in town. Mum had taken the doll from her, handed her the worn teddy bear and dragged her here. Why did grown-ups never listen?

However, she had to find her mother. There was a curtain lecture waiting for her… as if she had got lost on purpose! But, first – how could she find her way back? This street certainly wasn’t the right one, it was smelly and had tiny rivulets of water with oil rainbows crossing from one side to the other. Trash cans gathered in a corner, as if they were planning nasty things – like bullies at school. And wasn’t there something moving behind them? Sarah stood still, clutching her teddy bear. Yes, of course, there was somebody behind the trash cans! In the weak light it was difficult to see, but she thought she spotted something red. Then she heard a groan, and Santa Claus sat up in the street, yawning and rubbing a dark spot on his coat.

“Hi Santa”, Sarah said.

Santa’s head swiveled around unsteadily, and for a moment it looked as if he might fall back again. “Hi there, young lady,” he croaked.

“Are you drunk?”

Carefully, Santa put the bottle in his left hand down on the street. It was not completely empty. “Why, of course not. I was just… picking up some rubble, and then I got tired and fell asleep. And what about you, young lady?”

“Don’t call me that.”

“Call you what?” Santa struggled to stand up.

“Young lady. I know you know my name. It was on all my presents. You write funny.”

“Well, uhm… I don’t have my glasses with me. I can’t see your face properly. Are you… Anne?” Santa leaned forward and squinted. “Mary? Susan?”

Sarah giggled. He looked too funny. “Not Susan, it’s Sarah!”

“Oh, yes, yes, of course… Sarah. You are a very good girl. I remember.”

Sarah tried not to blush. She was still afraid if he found out she had taken the chocolate cookies from grandma’s pantry, she might have to give her doll back.

“Now tell me, what are you doing here?”

“I – that is, we… my mother and I wanted to…” How did you tell Santa that the presents had not been good and that you were exchanging them for better ones?

Santa smiled. His teeth were yellow and slightly crooked. “Did my helpers mix up your orders?”

“Not mine, Mum’s. You know, it can be difficult to get the right present for her. It’s not bad if you got something wrong”, Sarah tried to comfort him, “at least she can still exchange them for what she really wants. Dad never is that smart. They always fight on birthday.”

“Your parents fight? I guess I’ll have to take a closer look at them. Seems they are not good parents.” Slowly, Santa came towards her, steadying himself with one hand on the dirty wall.

“Oh, they are okay.” Sarah thought about something nice to say about her parents. Then she took a closer look at his clothes. “Won’t Mrs. Santa get angry if you come home dirty like this?”

He looked down, puzzled, as if he had not realized the stains before. “Oh, you’re right. I’d better sneak home and put that in the laundry.”

“I have to go back and find my Mum”, Sarah said. She held her teddy close, taking a careful step backwards. Close up, Santa Claus smelled funny, like old fruit and older socks.

Santa tried another smile. “Come on, I’ll help you find your mother.” He squatted a few steps away from her, trying his best to look harmless. Somehow his beard was – lopsided. Boy, Sarah decided, he really had to practice shaving.

“See? Over there is the mall, and there are the other big shops. I am sure your mother is over there, and she is worried you ran away.”

“Over there?” Sarah looked doubtful. “But all those houses are empty, and there are rats in there!”

“Then I’ll come with you and take care so they don’t come too close.” Santa offered his hand. The sky had turned a dark blue, and Sarah got more and more afraid. Hesitant, she took his hand.

Santa had to make sure his steps weren’t too wide, his legs were much longer than Sarah’s. While she was looking around, he told her stories about the reindeer, who were on holiday. “Hawaii, that’s where they wanted to go.”

“Hawaii? What are reindeer doing on Hawaii?”

“I don’t know. Maybe taking surfing lessons.” Santa shrugged.

They had passed the dark houses with their empty doors and windows, and suddenly Sarah could see the lights of the mall again. And there – her mother was standing right at the end of the street! She started waving, “Mum! Mum! I’m here! And look who’s with me!”

A slender figure came running towards her. “Sarah! Here you are! Why didn’t you listen? I told you not to wander about! It’s dangerous all on your own!”

“I wasn’t on my own, Mummy”, Sarah insisted. “Look who was with – “ and she turned around to introduce her to Santa. But he had disappeared. “Where is Santa?”

“Santa?” Her mother smiled. “I am glad he took care of you. But now we’ll have some hot chocolate, and then we’ll go home. And next time you’ll stay right beside me, okay?”

She wondered where Sarah had got her vivid imagination.

Donnerstag, 26. Mai 2011

Groceries

The house is awfully quiet now that he's gone. She hasn't gotten used to all that space yet. The yellow light from the kitchen overhead light makes her sick.

2 1 bag of potatoes
1lb carrots
12 4 eggs


She doubts that he will come back, and without his need for boiled breakfast eggs she won't need as many eggs. Let that new floosie cook his eggs for him from now on! She hopes they'll die in an egg yolk explosion. Stranger things have happened.

The phone rings, "Hey darl- ... I mean, Stella."

"What do you want?" She pretends to be indifferent, adds more items to her grocery list.

2 1 bag of potatoes
1lb carrots
12 4 eggs
Chocolate bars
Ice cream
1 bag of apples (green!)


He hates green apples. Now she can have as many of them at home as she wants.

His voice at the other end of the line, an audibly strained smile. "I've still got to pick some stuff up. Think I'll drop by tomorrow after work. You okay with that?"

"Yeah, why not? See you then." And she hangs up on him without saying good-bye.

Some things are still missing from that list. She sits there, deep in thought, then continues to scribble. Her hand-writing is still that of a twelve-year-old girl. She always got gold stars for her writing.

2 1 bag of potatoes
1lb carrots
12 4 eggs
Chocolate bars
Ice cream
1 bag of apples (green!)
duct tape
axe

Dienstag, 17. Mai 2011

Cold heart

You know, when I said 'forever', I actually meant it. Not like these celebrity-forever marriages, which last a month if they're lucky... or until they need some fresh publicity. Disgusting.

No, 'Till death do us part'. That kind of forever. With fidelity, love, the whole nine yards. I wasn't kidding, and it wasn't my fault you didn't get the hint.

Okay, so technically, one might say it's over. At least for one of us. But your heart doesn't look all that bad in my fridge, and I think I'll keep you around some more. Until you start smelling or something.

Sonntag, 8. Mai 2011

No way out

That hadn't gone as planned. Bummer. You leave them alone for a few thousand years, only checking in occasionally, and that's what they do? Less than satisfactory.

The cosmic phone rings. Small talk ensues. And then, of course... "Have you seen what they did to earth?"

"Yeah..." The mind screams, TRY TO CHANGE THE TOPIC! But the moment it takes the mind to scream this is the moment that makes it too late.

"Do you remember I told you this would happen? You do remember, I know it. Putting free will in people, who would come up with such a stupid idea?"

"It was idealistic!"

"Stupid, idealistic, same to me! The point is, I told you it would happen. When will you ever learn to listen to me?"

Surrender is the only way out. "I am sorry, you were right. Oh, and - Happy Mother's Day!"

A smile at the other end of the line. "Thank you, Darling."

Some things, not even the Gods can escape.

Sonntag, 24. April 2011

The raven

A black feather is all that's left. Even with good care, ravens hardly ever live more than twenty years. I guess that's not bad, considering the average shelf life of modern relationships is about three years. I remember his black feathers, wings stretched out in flight, and the surprising heaviness when he landed on my outstretched arm.

Then the sound of the change, and the visible pain he was in while transforming, and the gore and fluids and feathers everywhere. Sitting in a corner, I would wait patiently while he changed. In the very beginning, I had been less careful once and ended up with a broken arm from his flailing movement while growing into human shape.

Once the shape was complete, he would cower in his corner for a moment, gather himself and transition from raven-mind to man-mind. Through all these years, his body remained firm and muscular from all the time spent in flight. Whereas I aged, as do all women, and especially those who meddle with the dark powers. It takes a toll. All the years I remained beautiful, but my beauty was that of a crone when I was barely forty years of age.

I wonder why he returned to me over and over again, when all I had to offer was pain and passion and a few worms and grains, sometimes a dead mouse or a fresh egg before he left again. My power was never enough to keep him in one shape for a long time, and once he was gone I would clean everything away with great care, destroying the circle around my small hut which had done its duty in keeping us safe and undisturbed.

There have been rumors in the villages around the forest, of an evil sorceress turning people into animals out of cruelty. They continue coming to me if they need my help, but their minds have started making the connection, and I see the fear in their eyes. This is the price I have to pay for the love of a bird, and now he is gone.

Maybe I could resurrect him, there should be a little bit of him in the feather I kept after our last encounter... that time where all we did was enjoy the silence together, embracing each other peacefully on my narrow bed, since the flight had exhausted him and he had barely recovered when it was time to leave. I might bring him back, for a time, without true understanding... the same way he was when I first found him, a fledgling hopping around under a tree... my mind wanders... and then I put the feather back where it belongs, way in the back of the shelf, hidden behind the jars with honey and herbs. It's better not to think about it. I'm an old woman, after all.

Donnerstag, 21. April 2011

Moebius

I wish it was 'once upon a time'. But it's always, and never.

And now.

Freitag, 25. März 2011

404

Long after mankind has ceased to exist, the world will be left blinking and beeping and pinging.

Giant adds will scream their message at the night sky, where no trace of airplanes is to be seen.

Motel signs will remain on their watch posts, looking for prey to lure into cheap traps for the night.

The roads will be empty, no one to admire the larger-than-life screens.

In empty houses, screens will flicker and reveal the communications of spam bots, with programmed intelligence allowing them to pretend being 17-year-old horny chicks talking to well-endowed, muscular beach boys.

They will live forever.

Freitag, 18. März 2011

Tell them how you feel

The late afternoon spring sun drifted through the immaculate windows, adding the appropriate amount of grace to the family fathering. Claudia had to hand it to Aunt Tiffany, the old lady knew how to stage family gatherings. Everything looked so casual, in this no-one-really-lives-here way usually found in magazines. The throw pillows appeared to match everything, from the carpet to the cake plate. There were two kinds of coffee (yummy and decaf) and several brands of lose tea in lovely caddies surrounding three perfect-looking cakes.

Claudia wondered why exactly Aunt Tiffany went to so much effort for her siblings and their offspring. Surely not because she liked them, that much was sure. These gatherings were tedious and boring, and Claudia would rather have seen her dentist than her family.

In the meantime, Cousin Biddy had realized her victim wasn’t listening. “Claudia, you’re being impolite!” she exclaimed.

Claudia managed to show the appropriate amount of shame. “Sorry, Bridget, what did you say?” No one called that woman Biddy to her face – not unless they wanted a public scolding and the wrath of Cousin Biddy’s Lord.

“I’ve asked you if you have seen one of the TV services by Father Gregory. I think I shall go through my tapes and send you the one on respect for one’s elders.”

“Really, I am sorry. And yes, I did watch one of his services. Last Tuesday it was, I guess.” Claudia tried to shift her weight. Her injured knee was giving her hell these days.

“Oh, that was beautiful! Don’t you think…” And Cousin Biddy drifted off on a sermon of her own.

Claudia was not a religious person, but Cousin Biddy’s elation had fueled her curiosity enough to make her switch on the TV and listen to a black-wearing guy with overbite and the largest spectacles she had seen in a long time. The sermon had been really good, however, touching on the necessity of telling people what you really feel for them. She remembered his intense voice, “Do not assume your loved ones know what you feel for them. Tell them, before it is too late. You will feel a better person for doing so. The Lord reaps each and every one of us, and wouldn’t you like to know that you are appreciated?”

Her gaze drifted through the room, following the spring sunshine from one person to the next. There was Aunt Tiffany herself, mistress of this gathering, throning at the far end of the room. Still, Claudia could hear her complaining about all the hard work she had to do “to keep this place inhabitable”, even though everyone knew she had not only one, but three Mexican girls coming over for cleaning and shouting at several times a week. One of them, in addition, had the ungrateful task of renewing Aunt Tiffany’s “natural hair color – really, I don’t know why I am so lucky, but there’s not a single gray hair on my head, and praise the Lord for that!”
Next to her, on a significantly smaller wooden chair, sat Uncle Ted, with his usual expression of adoration. The couple liked to claim that they were still feeling like newly-weds on their honeymoon, although everybody knew that Uncle Ted was a regular over at the “Parlor of Sins” and usually slept on the couch anyway.

And this couple was a good example for the whole family. Claudia hadn’t given up hope that there had been a glitch at the hospital, and that she really belonged with a different family. Her parents were in the kitchen, she knew without looking – probably pilfering goodies from Aunt Tiffany’s fridge and helping themselves to some booze. This way, they saved enough money each year for their cruise around the Caribbean, usually coming back with unhealthy tans and complaining about the bad service and lazy maids.

Then there were cousins who stole, other cousins with disturbing religious views, uncles who drank and were out of jobs, aunts earning money in less-respectable professions, … The only family member Claudia really liked was Uncle George, and he claimed having discovered that the world was pear-shaped. Every first Sunday of the month, they gathered here – had done so since Claudia was a toddler – and flaunted their shortcomings with pride based on stupidity and inbreeding. Nevertheless, looking around the room, Claudia felt a strange warm sensation welling up through her torso. Maybe it was time that she made use of what she had learned from Father Gregory.

Slowly, she came to her feet, her painful movement interrupting Cousin Biddy’s explanation of the “light of the Saints”. She tapped her faux-silver spoon against her water glass. Silence settled over the crowded room.

She opened her mouth. “Dear family.” Now she really had everybody’s attention. Her father’s head appeared in the kitchen door. He was chewing something.

Claudia cleared her throat, made a second attempt. “Dear family. You all are a bunch of disgusting, self-important, stupid inbreds. If anyone would happen to ask me where I came from, I would claim having been adopted. You annoy the hell out of me, and I hate coming here to see you.” Then she limped out of the room, leaning heavily on her cane. Her car was the last in the driveway. Carefully, she draped herself on the driver’s seat. A quick glance to the front door – no one. Maybe Aunt Tiffany had had a stroke, and they were dividing her tchotchkes among them. Claudia didn’t care. She enjoyed the silence. A smile spread over her face. Father Gregory had been right, after all.

Freitag, 11. März 2011

Run

I'm almost done with lunch, and you look like dessert. You'd better run.

Dienstag, 1. März 2011

Hunting

It is very likely that I was conceived in a back alley while my mother was stoned. Or that some guy mixed her a "special" drink and she was blitzed out of her mind in a dark corner of a club.

Her own version differs, of course. On every occasion, she declares that I was a "child of love", a "magical gift" and that my conception was "very special" - the last one not even a lie, according to my theory. And her "sisterhood of the moon" is all awed and filled with love when they hear it, ghosts of past Beltane celebrations floating through their minds. Let me tell you this, not all herbs are meant to be used as incense.

I lean at the bar, my back to the wall with its mirrors and bottles. Believe me, none of that exotic stuff has ever been consumed in here. Why bother, if all you need is some syrup, food colors and cheap vodka? I bet that's the ingredient list for all the fancy cocktails I can see standing on the tables, some radiating their own light - or so it seems - in dark corners. I wonder if these are "special" drinks as well.

The drink next to my elbow looks too sweet, with a pink umbrella and at least a dozen kinds of artificial-looking exotic fruit impaled on blue plastic. Not my choice, I'll stick with my beer, thank you very much. At least it comes unopened. Even today, some guys can't imagine buying a girl a drink will not lead her to jump his bones.

Stupids. Everyone knows a cocktail at this place costs only two bucks. It's way more expensive to get into my pants. Unless it comes for free.

When you spend enough time at a place like this, you learn to read the customers. The hipster, the shy guy, the stupid drunk. I am not interested. All I am looking for, on these nights, are the dangerous guys. The ones who are persuasive in their own, very special ways. They may think they are clever, but the little signs give them away. A quick movement when they slip her a gay pill, or the tiny brown glass bottle carefully concealed inside the arm of the jacket. The Jackson pentagram, disguised as jewelery or in the shape of a tattoo. Hardly visible, but I've got eyes like a cat.

There is one. His victim is cute, blond, petite. The kind of girl who always attracts the biggest jerks. she laughs at something he says, head thrown back, oblivious to the danger. Her eyes sparkle. He appears to be attentive, but already his eyes are scanning the room, looking for dessert. Our gazes lock. I know what I look like. Easy entertainment. No one would expect what's inside this tiny leather package. But there's ways to hide whatever needs to be kept invisible. My hand goes up to the necklace. No one will suspect anything.

(You wouldn't believe the stores I had to go to for this outfit.)

He excuses himself, comes over to the bar - to get them a new round of drinks. Or something more? I lean in to him, whisper something. The blond's eyes lose their spark, turn to something cold and shining.

Sometimes I am tempted to walk away. Let them make their own mistakes. I could curl up on the sofa, watch an old movie. Instead I lick the stranger's ears. We leave the bar.

Freitag, 25. Februar 2011

Plants and insects

"Wait, what?" Tom started to laugh at her, and she felt her face turn red. "How could you not know that? Of course all kinds of paprika come from the same plant! You are so cute sometimes!"

The other people in the restaurant were staring at their table. "Excuse me, Darling, I've got to freshen up a little."

He smiled at her, all sparkling eyes and shiny white teeth, and grabbed her hand. "Don't be mad at me, Saskia Honey. You know I love you! But that was too funny."

Without success, she tried to free her hand. "I am not mad at you. As I said, I need to freshen up. Please." Did he really have to do that? Right here, with everyone watching them? Why couldn't he help her make sure the evening went nice and smooth, a real, romantic date, without some kind of ruccus?

Reluctantly, he let go of her hand. "Okay, I'll be right here."

The light in the bathroom was harsh, the mirrors poorly polished and the faucets leaked. The rest of the restaurant was far nicer. But of course, she thought, you didn't see the bathrooms when booking a table. No need to keep them nice. Unless they wanted their guests to return.

Her face in the mirror stopped burning. A few more moments, and she would be back at her normal teint. Why did he do this? He humiliated her all the time. In public. Preferably when her friends and family were around. Some days she couldn't help it, she felt so stupid! Although she used to consider herself pretty smart, maybe even a bit above average. When confronted, he denied everything. No way would he want to hurt her! It was just... couldn't she see it was pretty funny? All her small town girl attire and naive ways of thinking... - well, no use thinking about it now. She pushed the anger back where it belonged, into the dark. Time for dessert. She forced a smile on her face, tried to open the bathroom door without touching any of it and returned to their table.

The next day was a Sunday, and they went hiking, like they did every Sunday. She would have preferred to go to church, but he mocked her for "believing in the immortal son of a carpenter who flew from his cross directly into the sky". Thus she had taken to praying at night, while he was watching TV or messing with his tools in the garage. Surely God would forgive her for making things work.

It was a new trail, somewhere they hadn't been before. The sun was shining, and the leaves on the bushes were sparkling with their dewdrop jewellery. They advanced steadily, enjoying the fresh air, huffing when climbing steeper slopes. She stayed a few steps behind him, following his guidance, and only stopped now and again for a good look of their surroundings. The view was terrific.

"What are you doing there? Don't be lazy, come on! Or is the trail too difficult for your short girl legs?"

"No, no, I'm fine. I was just..."

"We can make a break once we reach the lookout point. Now hurry, I want to be back in time to watch the soccer match!"

A few stepf further up the path, they met the beetle. It was rather large, at least for a beetle, and black with an oil-film shine to its back. Tom almost hadn't seen it, but she shouted, "Look out! Don't step on it!"

He stopped mid-motion, looked on the ground, and almost fell over with laughter. "You're such a cute little girl, you know that? You even care for these nasty little critters? I'll have to make sure we don't go to the zoo, you'll break down and cry when they feed the geckos with crickets!" He crouched down to get a better look at the beetle, who seemed unimpressed by its visitors, and grabbed it by its shell.

"Don't do that!" she pleaded.

"Why? It's not as if they feel anything, is it." He held the beetle closer to his face.

Saskia let out a sigh and took the backpack from her shoulders to have some water. She turned around to admire the view. They were pretty far up high already, and no one else was around. That was the advantage of going early on Sundays.

A breathless kind-of-shout, kind-of gargling behind her. She looked over her shoulder and saw Tom lying on the ground, obviously in a lot of pain. His face was growning redder by the second, and his eyes started to bulge. Had he said, "Help me?" No, surely not. Of course, she could have told him that this beetle was highly poisonous, and that it had strong mandibles that could bite through the skin between human fingers, and that it was very likely the poison would cause respiratory distress. She had learned all these things at college. But she had expected him to know this, as he always made clear he was so much more clever than she was.

She flopped down on the ground in a safe distance, her back on the shape on the ground. Time for a snack. The view was truly spectacular, and the annoying sound would stop in a few moments.

Sonntag, 20. Februar 2011

Fairy stuff

Being a good fairy wasn't that easy after all. I looked at the mess I had made and sighed. Still lots of stuff to learn, hu? And this had been a classic, as far as fairy spells went.

What is inside you shall be visible on the outside!

Sounds easy, doesn't it? This week's assignment. Hadn't worked out as intended.

A knock at the door. "Hey, Cutie, you're ready?"

I nodded. "Let me go grab my stuff."

"Mind if I help myself?" He lifted the unlabeled bottle of beer to his lips and emptied it in a few gulps. His eyebrows rose when he saw my face. "Was that some love potion?"

"No, it's just..." I paused. It was too late anyway. "Nevermind, let's go!"

Montag, 14. Februar 2011

Sunny day

One sunny day, she will arrive home early, unexpected. You will be in the kitchen, dancing and doing the dishes. The bottle brush will be your microphone, and Aretha will come blaring from the stereo. And there will be no explanation for your appearance. You will blush, mumble something about it being laundry day and that it is not what it looks like, but she will not believe you. And it will be made so much worse by the fact that you are wearing her old wedding dress, which fits you just as perfect as it fit her back then.

Mittwoch, 9. Februar 2011

Official duties don't end like that

I knew exactly that hiding under a mountain of blankets was not an option. At least not forever. It might do for a few hours, or even days, but after that...

"Okay, I give in. What do you want from me?"

The ungulate guy at the foot of the bed shrugged. "Why are you mad at me? I am only the messenger!"

I increased the power of my glare, from stern to superglare, but to no avail.

"Are you coming?" He was nervous. That was clearly visible. He was scratching the good wooden floor with his hoof.

"Stop that!" With a sigh, I threw the blankets off of me and grabbed my morning gown.

"Uhm... there is no need to dress. We can't take anything with us anyway."

"Wha-"

Bzzzzzeet.

"...t?"

This was definitely not my apartment. I looked around me. My brain was sliding around in my head, and not having fun. The moment Goat Boy over there had grabbed my hand, we had been... bzzzzeet... and been... Somewhere Else.

I didn't like being somewhere else.

"What is this? And where?"

"Hssht!" Goat Guy seemed to listen to something. He pointed down the narrow, uneven hallway. In the distance I could see light, flickering with irritation, like really impatient flames. My skin was covered in cappuccino-colored goosebumps. The color was natural. Freezing was rather rare for me.

"I am not going anywhere without clothes." I crossed my arms in front of my chest and couldn't help noticing just how cold it was.

Goat Boy sighed with impatience. "Look, I could just transport us over there, but that would be rather impolite. Don't make me do that."

"Can you scratch yourself behind the ear with these hooves?" I stared at him, feet hip-wide apart, trying to look tough. I was probably failing miserably. No surprise there, at my height it takes more than attitude to impress the others.

He didn't react.

Reluctantly, I gave up on being stubborn. For the moment.

The hallway was dark, with cave-like walls and a dark stone floor. The flickering light, I learned, came from small lamps every few meters, which were set to "fire imitation mode". Or whatever you wanted to call it. It really was more irritating than - I was not sure what they wanted to achieve by this - charming? Cozy?

As we went down the hallway, the sound of a merry gathering echoed towards us. Someone was having a good time. Not me, that much was sure. My feet hurt from touching the cold floor, and my goosebumps looked like medium-grit sandpaper.

Something started bugging me. I mean, apart from the fact that

Option A: I was going insane or

Option B: This was a really, REALLY weird dream or

Option C: ... Nah, forget option C. Too strange.

Be that as it may... wait, I knew that voice!

Harry Gumble.

My boss.

My DEAD boss, to be exact. The funeral had been last week. Okay, this was a dream. Had to be.

We arrived at a door to our right, behind which the party was taking up speed. Harry Gumble was sitting in what appeared to be a whirlpool, steam curling upwards from the surface of an opaque fluid with a metallic shine, and was just about to toast the rest of the party with a huge glass of - well, whatever. Surely high-proof, that's what had killed him, after all.

I tried to keep my gaze on my former boss and ignore the fact that he was naked. The alternative would be taking in the rest of this madness. As far as I had glanced, none of the - well, not exactly people - around here was human. Horns, more hooves, wings, scales... I preferred not to see any of it.

"Miss Skilling, how good of you to join us!"

"Mister Gumble! How good to see you!" My polite kicked in and saved me from stammering like a madwoman in need of a new jar of marbles.

"I am soo sorry I had to have Alredo there disturb you - but could you teach him how to make a proper cup of coffee? I don't know what this is, but apart from coffee I'm having the blast of my life."

He probably meant afterlife.

Donnerstag, 3. Februar 2011

Jack

The bones scare me.

(Which bones? Whose? And where?)

It's dark. I don't see anything but bones. Dreadful smell. Something's moving. Not enough light for details, still glinting off the bones.

Surely they aren't moving without help. Rats, maybe?

I don't know who I am or where I came from, but I know rats. Not in pictures or words, only fear pulsing through my brain.

The rats are an illusion, as are the bones. Whole worlds made up in this narrow space. Something pushes me, and I jump, followed by music and laughter.

"Oh, look! A Jack in the Box!"