Monday, October 31


I grew up in the desert scrub with my sisters all around, drank the cold light of the stars like water in winter, grew tall and strong. I took up the pen at twelve and tore songs out of my heart like leaves from my sisters, leaves we would twist and knot into thread and clothing and homes. Women dressed properly, then, tying their headdresses in gaudy knots, and made pulque in the shelter of rocky overhangs.

I could not.  I tore at the earth and watered fields of doomed flowers with droplets flung from bloody fingernails. I cried out to Xochipilli Chicomexochitl with every breath I took, and he took notice. He followed me down into the hardpan waste and kissed my scars and open wounds, the scraped flesh quivering under his painted lips like the great serpent, rising in flame from under the world.

"Mayahuel," he sang to me, "one night you will bear fruit and disappear into the earth, and all the world will mourn the loss of my favorite poet." His singing melted my bones like boiling chocoatl and we were fallen down onto the ground again, lost in the night all around us, snarling and tearing at each other like jaguars.

I gave birth to many daughters and suckled them, fitting delicate words into the puzzle of strict meter all the while. My flower prince went singing into the night, the songs I made for him sweet on his lips like the aguamiel in my heart. My children went out into the desert scrub to drink the cold light of the stars like water in winter, and I began to lose my language. I wrote in rhyme and in free verse, hymns and platitudes and holy beckoning. I let blood from my wrists in the hopes that it would sing in the silence, but it fell flat to the earth and sluggishly dried, still refusing to speak.

I churned within, seeking aubade or threnody, wailing couplets, unrecognized, into the dust storms blowing through our desolate home. I began to diminish.

One day, when the sun blazed down, drying the shine from my thick black hair, I lay flat on the ground. I pressed my scarred hands into the red dust and began to stroke pictures of the words I still wanted to sing. I could no longer rhyme, could no longer call up jewel-like painted miniatures from the arid scrub, the wizened twigs that were all the words left to me. I turned on my side and wept bloody tears, all the moisture my body still contained flowing into the dust, sticking to my burning skin.  I gave up.

The earth rose up around me like an embrace, its benevolent chill soothing my blackened flesh. I could not sing its praises, nor tell it my story, nor even weep. My body drifted deeper with every hour, my head and hair pressing out of the ground like my doomed gardens bearing fruit at last. I was dry of all meaning, drained of all my life's work, and I was alone.

When Mictecacihuatl rose from the mud beside my face, her flayed bones sheltered me from the heat of the sun, and I saw her jaw open to devour the light. I could not say, then, why it was so beautiful. No matter how hard I tried, I could no longer wrap my tongue around the iambic pentameter of the comfort of darkness, standing tall against the dreadful light.

For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, Indie Adams challenged me with "No matter how hard I tried, I still couldn't get my head around iambic pentameter" and I challenged Lance with "The apothecary's daughter."

Saturday, October 29

the last ritual

lovely recoloring of the Rider-Waite deck 
illustration by Pamela Colman Smith,
found here.

Woodsmoke and bone, raw sugarcane,
spitting splinters into the rain,
on the waning of the moon
we wait, fight impatience. Resist
our baser urges. They exist
who missed, who set out too soon.

I light the fire with my cut hair,
each snaking curl a brazen flare
ringing an alarum blast.
This blazing fast consumes the bone
and leaves only the dark. The Crone
upon her throne sits at last.

The herbs well-pounded, cold and green,
taste of slow death, of sights unseen
by man or wean. How they cry!
As I've become, I laugh aloud.
I stand so tall, inside Her shroud;
hush the crowd--and prophesy.

Questions answered or denied flat,
all cards are laid out on the mat.
Hear that?  The barrier thins.
Circled magic wins over all;
the coming year awaits our call.
With nightfall, the song begins.

The rain now stopped, the air is fell
with mist and life and fear of hell.
Hollow shell of me, disperse
into the dawning of the year.
I try to breathe it deep, but hear
our end clear in chanted verse.

Second attempt at a cywydd llosgyrnog for the Imaginary Garden with Real Toads. Somehow, they all end up as aubade.  

For my beloved coven, celebrating Samhain for the first time without me.  I miss you all.

Thursday, October 27


I hate the steady
drain of time, slipping over
the daylight's edge with
aplomb.  It tastes of secrets,
candyfloss that melts away.

Wednesday, October 26

Eurydice at Dawn

 "'Oh, I don't know,' he said. 'Πελλαίου βοῦς μέγας εἰν Ἀίδη.' This was something to the effect that, in the Underworld, a great ox costs only a penny, but I knew what he meant and in spite of myself I laughed. There was a tradition among the ancients that things were very cheap in Hell. " --Donna Tartt, "The Secret History"

I know all the things you've never told me. I know the late nights and the gnawing feeling in your chest, the dreams from which you wake, clawing your way out of tangled bedclothes. Gasping for air.

I know the jobs you've taken and the ones you've refused. I know the desperate twin chains of inertia and fear, the fear of hurting someone who truly cares for you. Sitting up at night, you think of me, but only when you can't distract yourself. I'm still waiting, though. I've been down here a long time, but I'm doing okay. Getting around only costs me a penny, and everyone in this place knows just what I'm going through. I'd never leave you if I had any say in the matter, you know.

Some nights I think you'll find your way home to me, follow your heart down here. Then I could make my escape. I could touch your hand and all the years we've been apart could dissolve into nothing more than the swirling rainbow film on a puddle of water in the parking lot. I could make you remember. I could make you forget.

I remember you, upright in that leather jacket. I played at vegetarian disgust and secretly longed to be folded into your arms. I didn't actually care that you were wearing a dead cow. I have this thing for writers and percussionists. The craziest guys come down here, and it's true, I have my fun. You're not here, so, it's true. Every time I close my eyes, though, it's you. Always you. I wake up from my dreams in tears, muffling myself in the pillow so I don't disturb whichever one is in my bed this time. They don't matter, only the dreams. I dream of you and your hollow days, pushing on in denial. Other times it's of the past, of the comfort of apples, the weariness of love.

I think you are refusing my calls, refusing to believe that I could still be here, burying yourself in the meaningless pursuits of the upper side. Cowardly, clinging to the sunlight you never loved. You don't even play your music anymore. You never write to me, for me, of me. I think you've given up hope. I think you've sold the dream for her scraps of passion, and worse.  Even in a Hades market, I think you're selling the dream too cheap.

For this week's IndieInk Writing Challenge, Billy Flynn challenged me with "Selling the dream cheap", and I challenged Diane with "Old Scratch and El Salto del Colacho.  Make it funny if you can--if you can't, make it terrifying."

There is an interpretation of the Orpheus myth that colors him a coward, afraid to die to be with Eurydice forever.  Instead, he defied the gods to retrieve her, because he wasn't ready to leave the upper world.  I find this rather less romantic than you might think.

Tuesday, October 25


Scrape it carefully,
this orb of autumn's dreaming,
carved face, mirrored mask.

Monday, October 24


The scent of rain and stormy air,
a Pumpkin King's candle-lit stare.
Candy corn, preserved, bottled
with hot toddy and some cut grass,
one blazing leaf stuffed in the glass.
Then age the label mottled.

Friday, October 21


sticky amber and sweet,
gouged hollow and still too full.
it's not an oxymoron. it's
the way of things

when the future is unsettled
and time stretches out, gumming
up the works like resin,
pitch perfect.

I boil over, sometimes,
and you reduce to syrup,
that dark hint of winter nights
flavoring all I do.

Thursday, October 20


Old dogs to new tricks,
like ducks to strawberry jam,
are perhaps a bit
slow to take.  Yet applying
jam to tricks is just as wrong.


It just happens, one day. You're walking down the street and the kid who mows the neighborhood lawns over summer break is walking ahead of you, his iPod jammed in the pocket of a pair of weirdly furry pants. You start to yell hi, but when he turns around he's had those weird nubby horns installed under the skin and giant gauged ear flaps. Plus, those weird goat-footed boots, just like Lady Gaga? Kids these days.

Then you walk into the bakery and the nice ladies who run the place have been replaced. The woman behind the counter tries to sell you New and Improved Bread, made from a giant puffball mushroom, but you hate mushrooms, and you just wanted some toast. She wrinkles her entire face at you when you ask for brown bread, the kind with a little salt sprinkled on top, and tells you she might as well keep Cold Iron in the shop if you want her to sell that kind of crap.

You're confused, because isn't bread usually baked in an oven? And wouldn't that be hot iron? You shake your head and go around the corner to the florist's, but the door is locked and there's a sign on the door. "Closed indefinitely by Royal Edict," which is truly odd, because your country hasn't had royalty for hundreds of years.

It's not a great day. It's like everyone you know has up and moved, overnight, and a lot of strange characters have taken over. Still, you have to eat, so you head over to the grocery store. It's next to the elementary school, which is even louder than usual. In the playground, they appear to be playing some kind of complex war game, with blue face paint, bows and arrows, even a cute little blowgun or two. You wonder why you never had friends like these, who would pretend to shoot you and then be patient while you acted out your thrilling death scene. Some of those kids are really hamming it up, too--convulsions and flailing around on the ground like landed fish--mostly the ones who were on the wrong end of the blowgun "dart". It's pretty cute.

The school bell rings, and you turn into the grocery store parking lot. The recess war looks to have been decided in the blue-painted team's favor, but the ones who are left lying on the ground are really committed to their death scenes. You remember how hard you played at that age, and smile to yourself as you head into the store. On your way in, you pass that wizened old school bus driver. Smiling and nodding, you head over to the organic produce and start picking through this week's crop of tomatoes. Your hand on the cool, dry surface of the crimson tomato reminds you of something, but it can't be that important, or you would remember, right?

You wander the aisles, putting into your basket anything that catches your eye, and with a start, you realize that the hat your old bus driver was wearing is an oddly rich shade of red. Plus, wasn't it just a trucker's cap last week? This one was pointed, and seemed a little damp. Sodden, even, is the word that comes first to mind.

You check out at self-service and stop making eye contact with the other customers, because the anxiety is kicking in again. You always feel like you're the center of hostile attention. Time to get home. Heading out, you see the bus driver standing outside his bright yellow school bus, all the tiny blue-painted savages lined up to board. The kids still lying on the playground, those must be waiting for rides home. Funny how they haven't gotten up yet, though.

You're walking past the school bus, and you tip a salute to your old bus driver, when you realize it's not your old bus driver at all, and his hat, that strangely pointed hat, is dripping slowly. You're walking on past, in a hurry to get home, because things have started to feel really weird and you'd like to get to your medication, and it's then you realize that he isn't a man at all, but a Redcap, his teeth and fingernails and hat all dripping thick blood the color of old rust.

For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, Chaos Mandy challenged me with "Fae and Children", and I challenged Cheney with "God's away on business."  

This is not technically a ghost story, sadly--the prompt was pretty specific. I'm okay with a delightfully murderous gang of pixies and a Redcap or two, instead.  I hope you are, too. 

Tuesday, October 18


The moon rides out on
cloudy trails, its gleaming back
a lucent puzzle.

The Lazy Fisherman

In a certain place, at a certain time, lived a fisherman and his wife. They were a poor but happy couple whose home was quite near the Imperial compound. The only characteristic that marred their marital bliss was the unfortunate fact of the fisherman's laziness. The fisherman's wife did her best to keep it a secret, but the neighbors all knew, and pitied her.

"What a hateful thing, O husband," she would wail upon his return each night. "Today the noodle vendor told me of a thing that I would believe impossible! And yet, it is true." The fisherman's wife would tell her husband of a different celestial punishment visited upon the lazy each and every night, until even her deep well of invention began to run dry. It made no difference, alas, and her husband continued to be known all through their village as the lazy fisherman.

At the same time, gossip reported that a small pond in the shrine next to the Imperial compound was close to overflowing with large and fat fish, the likes of which had never been seen. It was said that this was proof that the kami favored the masters of the shrine, and that luck was sure to follow those who visited and paid their respects. One afternoon, as the fisherman remained abed, he heard a conversation from outside.

"So many fish I have never seen in all my days! The smallest one was as large as my forearm," said the noodle vendor, whose forearms were wide and bulging with the exercise of pulling the stock of fresh soba and udon. "I offered a coin to the shrine and on my way out, an enormous carp leaped into the air, its golden scales shining like the sun."

"I, too, visited the shrine last week," interjected the salt woman. "The fish were leaping in greeting, and the shrine maidens were dancing with joy. A more beautiful sight I have never seen."

The lazy fisherman sat bolt upright. The long walk to the lake in which he was usually forced to cast his nets would be no more. If only he could find a way to fish in the shrine pond! He was not a man who was much concerned with the gods, and not one to think about consequences.

The fisherman leapt out of bed and began to check his nets for holes. His wife, startled by this unusual flurry of activity, hurried out of the kitchen.

"Husband, you have risen! And a full two hours earlier than usual! Can it be that you have decided to honor the gods and live a more fulfilling life?"

"Cease your intemperate noise, wife, and sit with me. We must repair all these nets by sunset. I go to fish in the shrine's pond this evening, and with such a heavy catch, they must remain well-knotted."

His wife sank to her knees, her mouth agape. "Have you lost your mind, O husband? If you dare to kill the living luck of the shrine the gods will surely curse us all!"

Scoffing, the lazy fisherman continued his work without her help. He repaired his nets long into the twilight, while she wept and wailed about ill luck and disaster. When the moon rose, he bundled his belongings upon his back and set out on the short walk to the shrine, still ignoring her warnings.

At the top of the hill, where the road split between the forest and the shrine, a large rock marked the fork. As he passed the rock, he began to hear a soft weeping, and turned in surprise to see a beautiful girl sitting in its shadow. Her soft black hair swept down in long waves around her slender hands, which were pressed against her face as she wept. The fisherman shifted his weight from side to side as he thought about the large catch awaiting him at the shrine, but his conscience, usually so silent, spurred him to stop for a moment.

"What is wrong, O maiden? Can I be of some service?" He was careful to address her respectfully, as her clothes were of the highest quality. He began to wonder if she had accidentally wandered out of the Imperial compound. "Though I may be unworthy to speak to you, I do not wish to leave you unattended in the night. Pray, O maiden, lift your head and let me know how to serve you," he begged.

The girl turned away, still weeping into her hands, and her shoulders began to shake even harder. "I cannot tell you, fisherman, for I see you are on your way to a heavy catch," she whispered.

The fisherman gritted his teeth and attempted to sound insouciant. "I have more time to help than I have to fish. Please tell me what is wrong."

"Very well, O fisherman, I shall reveal to you my secret," she spoke, only a little louder than before. "I mourn for the fish you are about to slaughter, for I am the guardian of the shrine pond!" As she said these words, she dropped her lovely hands from her face, and the fisherman fell back in horror, for the front of her head was as smooth and featureless as an egg. With a shriek, he dropped his nets and ran for home.

As he dashed down the main thoroughfare of the village, his feet tangled in each other and he fell, sprawling, at the feet of the man who ran the ramen shop.

"There, friend, where do you run with such speed?" The ramen vendor reached down to help up the lazy fisherman, his wide, friendly face round and smiling. "Your wife has been weeping and worrying all night. Come into my shop and rest before you go home, or you will frighten her even more!"

"Oh, thank you," the fisherman panted, unaccustomed to such exertion. "You will never believe what I saw tonight!"

The ramen vendor placed a bowl of soup in front of the fisherman, soup so hot and fragrant with red chili oil that the comforting aroma drove away the fear in the fisherman's heart. As he sipped the soup, he began to tell his strange story, slowly relaxing under his friend's familiar gaze.

"Your wife warned you about intruding on the peace of the shrine," the ramen vendor laughed. "And you were lucky enough to meet with the guardian before you killed the fish, weren't you?"

"Well, yes, but have you ever heard of such a creature?" the fisherman asked.

"Oh, my, yes. I've heard of a spirit who can take on the face of a familiar person and one who can wipe it away. There are many spirits in these hills, you know," the ramen vendor continued. A strange feeling began to rise in the fisherman's throat. 

The man's hand rose to stroke at his chin as he began to tell a tale of the vengeful Noppera-bō, the faceless ones. The fisherman watched in dread as, with each stroke of the hand, the ramen vendor's once-familiar face disappeared before the fisherman's horrified eyes.

The fisherman fell backwards out of the ramen shop, still-hot soup spreading across the counter, a red sheen of oil staining his hands and clothes. He scrambled away crabwise as the ramen vendor approached slowly. The faceless one drifted closer, his feet no longer seeming to touch the ground, and a low moan emerged from the blank skin.  Just before it came close enough to touch, the fisherman's nerve broke completely, and he jumped up and ran home.

He collapsed onto the porch, where his wife was still sobbing about ill-luck and curses. His heart was pounding in his chest like a taiko drum and he was covered in the dust of the street and still-fragrant chili oil. His wife arose in a hurry and ran to comfort him, but upon hearing his tale, jumped away. 

"You failed to heed the guardian of the shrine?" She raised her hands to her face in shock and it melted away like cold fog on a sunny morning. A shriek issued forth from the pale and empty oval of her suddenly formless skin, and the fisherman's heart finally gave out.

This is a famous Japanese folktale, though I've cobbled together a few iterations of it.  Editing help was kindly given, when I ran into a pronoun situation, by Maren and Wendryn of  Our forum rocks. Thank you so much!

Saturday, October 15


There is a song I hear, here
where blacking fear does follow;
a shadow deep-lodged in truth,
a fruit left sleeping hollow.

"κυρία, ἐ," on each note,
quotidian insistence--
"In the midst of revelry,
the pity of existence."

I will not sing along, though
it lays me low with sorrow;
cannot feel that hope is lost,
though at what cost tomorrow?

Second attempt at an awdl gywydd for Imaginary Garden with Real Toads. The Greek should read "Kyria, e," a riff on the Kyrie eleison, recast for a Creatrix who, I'd imagine, might be a little disappointed in our current state of affairs.

Friday, October 14


It's time for candy
apples and crisp scarlet leaves,
pumpkin carving and
ghost stories by the fire,
not this surly sweltering.

Wednesday, October 12

Good Samaritan

George didn't stop to think much about it, when he saw the girl in the dress. Looked like she'd been left out in the middle of nowhere by her prom date. He didn't know much about dresses, but he could tell when things were expensive, and this girl was wrapped in a good chunk of change along with some flowy purple stuff. He pulled right over, because if he'd ever had a daughter, he would have wanted someone to do the same.

"Hey, you okay?" He stepped down from the high cab of his rig and held up his hands. "I saw you walking, and I don't think a lot of cars come through here. You need to use a phone or something?" He was careful not to advance on her. With the rep some long-haul truckers had, he didn't want to scare her into the woods. "I've got a cell. You don't have to get in the cab or anything, or talk to me if you don't want to. You just looked like you could use a hand."

She frowned up at him, heels half-sunk in the mud of the shoulder. "I don't even know where I am," she confessed. "I was with Johnny and then the car broke down, and Mom's not answering her phone."

He relaxed a little. "Well, can I do anything for you? I know they say never ride with a stranger, but if you've got a phone and no one's headed out here for you I can at least get you to the 24-hour diner in Bucker. There'll be lots of people, and you can wait for your parents there, maybe?" He was worried about coming on too strong, but he really didn't want to leave a teenager on the side of the road so late at night.

"I just live off Exit 94. It's pretty close to the diner. I don't know why no one's answering at home," she fussed, pulling a surprisingly big mobile phone out of her little purse. "Is there any way you can just take me there? It's a pretty well-maintained road and I know my dad will give you gas money."

If he doesn't shoot me first, George thought, but merely said, "I can definitely take you there, no gas money needed. Do you need to call Johnny? Should we pick him up, too? How far away is the car?"

She shook her head. "I'm never talking to him again. He can find his own way home, he's probably got the car running again already." She picked her way over to the cab of his truck and glared at the display on her retro phone. "I can't believe I missed my senior prom because of this!"

George tried not to smile as he climbed back into the truck. "Well, your parents will be glad to see you home early, I guess." He leaned over to help her into the cab, her small hands gripped tight around his large one as he pulled her in. "Hey, you're freezing," he said. "Let's get you some heat." He started the truck, its patient rumble overwhelming his hesitation at having a strange teenage girl along for the ride. He cranked up the heat and, with a muffled exclamation, eeled around to rummage in the back. "Here, I knew this was kicking around somewhere," he laughed as he handed her a huge yellow-checked down coat. She took it, smiling, and wrapped it around herself like a blanket.

"Thanks. It was getting kinda chilly out there, huh?"

"Yeah," he replied, and busied himself with adjusting the heat. He signaled his turn onto the road as if there were twenty cars waiting and pulled back out. The familiar lull of highway driving soothed his nerves, and after about fifteen miles, he absentmindedly flipped on the radio. Ole Hank was singing, and George glanced quick over at the girl to see if she might mind the twang, but she had put her phone away and was leaning against the big window. He thought she might be dozing and turned the radio down a little. It was just a few more exits. He could wake her up once they got closer to the diner.

"I'm not asleep," she muttered. "I hate sleeping on the road. I told you where I live, right? It's about a mile past the diner you mentioned." After she gave him directions, they fell silent once more.

Ev'rything's agin me and it's got me down, Ole Hank sang plaintively into the night as George crossed the Big River bridge, just one exit away from the girl's. If I jumped in the river I would prob'ly drown. He looked reflexively over the guardrails, the moonlight shimmering on the fast-moving river, and shuddered. No matter how I struggle and strive, I'll never get out of this world al-- Grimacing, George reached over quick and snapped off the radio.

"Not such a good song for a moonlight drive, huh?" He grinned and looked over at the passenger seat, only to slam on the brakes as he realized the girl was no longer there. He backed up as fast as he could without fishtailing and jumped out of the cab. He ran frantically over to the bridge, leaning over the guardrail and scanning the river for some sign of her. His coat, her flowing dress, anything. She'd have to be visible. But he'd never heard the door open, he hadn't heard anything! He ran back to search the cab of his truck, and found nothing. In a daze, he climbed back into the cab, buckled his seatbelt, and headed on into town.

George was jolted from his reverie when he realized he'd absentmindedly followed her directions straight to what he assumed was her home. For one frantic instant, he thought about peeling back out of there, but it was too late. The house was lighting up. It looked as if they'd heard the truck and were looking for the source of the commotion. With one helpless glance at the still-empty passenger seat, he stepped down from the truck and walked up to the porch.

"Can I help you, son?"

George started, unnerved by the voice from a seemingly empty porch, and there was a chuckle.

A man probably ten years older than George himself stepped out of the shadows and down to the walk. "I'm Erica's dad," he said. "That's why you're here, isn't it?"

George began to sweat. "Well, I don't know her name, I mean, yes sir, but--"

"Don't worry, son. Happens every year," the older man said. "Picked her up outside of Bucker, right?"

"Well, yes, I mean, she said the car broke down. I didn't want to leave her," George said plaintively.

"Her ma and I would sure appreciate that, son. It's all right. Then you went over the Big River bridge and she was gone?"

George opened his mouth to answer, but no words followed. He stammered for a second or two, and blurted, "This happens every year? What the hell?! Is this some kind of joke?"

Erica's father rubbed at his eyes with a slightly trembling hand and sighed. "My daughter was killed in a car crash ten years ago, son. Her boyfriend was taking her to the senior prom and someone ran them off the road. I guess he was killed on impact, but the paramedics said Erica had been trapped in the car. She tried to call us on her new mobile phone, too. Hell of a thing, to hear your baby girl breathed her last calling you for help, and you didn't hear."

"This is a joke," George growled. "I don't have time for this, I'm on a schedule." He began to stalk back to his truck, fuming.

"I wish it were a joke," the older man said. "It ain't all that funny to talk to people every year as swears they were giving your girl a ride home, only to find she's disappeared partway home." He shook his head dolefully.

"Hell of a thing," he repeated as he turned back to his porch and tottered slowly up the stairs as George fumbled with the keys to his rig. 

 "Wait a second, son," he heard a moment later, and the older man came rushing down his porch stairs again.

George saw him coming and rolled his eyes. He wasn't going to be taken in by whatever scam these hill folk were trying to pull. And he was out a pretty pricey down coat, too, however this stupid trick worked. He was willing to bet he'd never get it back, either. The old man was tapping on the truck door now. Ridiculous, he thought, but grudgingly rolled down his window.

"Churchyard's just a mile down, you don't believe me," the older man panted. "You go on over there. My Erica's in the back left corner. Got a little rosebush behind the stone. You go on, you'll see."

I am sure the hell not going to go poking around in a graveyard at this hour, George thought. Then again, it's on the way to the Interstate, and I could call in a report on these people for fucking with my schedule. Why the hell not? He backed onto the road and gunned it for the church.

Thirty seconds later, he was poking around the overgrown graveyard, emergency flashlight in hand, when he spotted them. First the rosebush, white roses, really pretty but kind of creepy under the full moon's light. Next it was his yellow-checked down coat, folded neatly on the grave.

The month of ghost stories marches on!   I hope I didn't stretch the prompt too far, as this was the first thing I thought of upon reading the challenge...

For the Indie Ink writing challenge this week, femmefauxpas challenged me with: "It had all happened exactly a year ago.  Or had it?"
I challenged Sarah Cass with "Knife skills."

Tuesday, October 11


The moon is full, white and wild,
its bony smile malice-taut,
all a-brim with ill-laid plans.
In its hands, a bubbling pot

foretells quick death. Cats and kings
alike hear it sing its song,
its ode to chill havoc wrought
with grievous thought, bleak and wrong.

This rather overblown and Octoberesque awdl gywydd was written for this week's Format Challenge.  Check my post at Imaginary Garden with Real Toads for the rules and link up!

time travel

I travel through time
only one way, facing front.
Don't leave me behind.

Thursday, October 6

you and I

Can two strangling vines
exist? Not in the same place,
though our roots tangle.
One will win. One will thrive, yet
the other cannot survive.

Wednesday, October 5

Ex Machina

"There was nothing for it. I could see them approaching, exactly as I expected! I simply had to act on my impulses or else I'd--"

I shook my head impatiently. "Computer, stop program. Run diagnostic level theta six."

The computer chimed quietly. "Level theta six diagnostic complete, Ben. No errors detected."

"Well, that can't be right! Listen to the dialogue. Run diagnostic again."

Another chime followed. "No errors detected, Ben. Program has not degenerated. Dialogue intact."

I jerked my head out of its resting place atop my arms and glared, hot-eyed, at the terminal. "This is ridiculous, computer. Find the source of the dialogue and retrace." As my desktop hummed quietly, I pulled out my hard-copied notes. I'd gone over these a million times but this time, a footnote caught my attention. Gregor Samsa, The Metamorphosis. By an auteur designated "Franz Kafka". "Never heard of 'em," I muttered. The computer heard me and thrummed expectantly.

"Source confirms dialogue's accuracy. Continue playback?"

"Oh, fine--yes, computer, continue playback. Please."

"There I go again, being overtaken by an urge. What now? Will I really? But then, won't I become nothing more than a criminal? But just what is a criminal anyway? And--"


"I don't understand the query, Ben."

"Computer, identify source of current dialogue."

"Yes, Ben. Source of current dialogue is Web user Drusil Renfield, ID 2308/507WWIA53233, designation GregorInsekt. Affiliation unknown. On lockdown until 41013.7 for assault on a senior officer. Your file is cross-referenced with the prisoner's as a result of your position as counsel for the defense. More?"

"Thank you, computer, I am well aware of my reasons for having to listen to this tripe. I still think it's gone garbage somewhere in the copying. Skip to the end and let's get this review over with."

"Last paragraph, Ben. Going to record of defendant's testimony. Voice and video available."

"Yes, computer--show the video, instead. It's not that you don't have a lovely voice..."

"Affirmative, Ben. Video replay beginning."

The screen leaned haphazardly against my wall, waiting for me to install it properly. Its serene blue glow was shortly replaced by the visage of a deeply unfortunate-looking human. Unfortunate-looking, how, I couldn't tell you. It was something in the skewed geography of his face, the planes under his skin, maybe. 

 His grey eyes bulged impossibly from his face, and his skin was patchy and coarse. His hair frizzed out at all angles, and his mouth gaped horribly, silver drool collecting in the trough of his wasted lower lip. I could see no humanity in this man's eyes. He looked like a burnout, or worse, a spaz, a person so invested in life on the Web that he'd let his real life shrivel into nothing. 

 He was talking, I guess, but it was more like a string of unrelated words. Not gibberish, exactly, more like very convincing lorem ipsum, and every few words, a flood of saliva spilled from his mouth. He'd jerk his withered arm up and swipe at his chin, the clawed hand affording him a few dry moments and a few more mouthfuls of outlandish statement. He jabbered through all of the paragraphs the computer had already read to me, and the computer was right--there was no degeneration in the file. It was all in this creep's head.

"If desperation comes knocking on your door...what wouldn't you do to keep yourself sane? If indeed, this could be called sanity. In this world of chaos, busy laneways and cobblestones, anything could be called sane," he pointed out.

It seemed this was the end, and I was leaning forward to key in a rewind, when his butcher's eyes snapped forward, as if they were focusing directly on mine. Disconcerted, I jerked back and fell awkwardly into the chair. I felt his gaze like a punch to the midsection, so real that it took my breath. That was the end of the cast, though. Wincing, I thumbed off the screen, resolving it into its normal calm glow. The computer hummed quietly on the desk behind me, and I found myself convulsively wiping my chin.

"Anything could be sanity," I said. It felt different, voicing his crazy diatribe, letting it take shape on my tongue for a reason unknown even to myself. The more I parroted it, the farther it penetrated. It felt plausible. It felt familiar. I looked down at the notes on the desk and smiled for the first time all evening. 

I'd been freed from the computer and reborn into a new host. In this world of chaos, anything was possible. Even me.

For the Indie Ink writing challenge this week, Tereasa Trevor challenged me with 
"There was nothing for it. I could see a person approaching exactly as expected. I simply had to act on my impulses or else I'd...

There I go again, being overtaken by an urge. What now? Will I really? But then, won't I become nothing more than a criminal? But just what is a criminal anyway? And if desperation comes knocking on your door...what wouldn't you do to keep yourself sane. If indeed, this could be called sanity. In this world of chaos, busy laneways and cobblestones, anything could be called sane."

I challenged  Reinaldo Martinez with "the physician of last resort".


The anxiety
expands, a balloon swelling
to consume each day.

Monday, October 3


"My hairbrush is gone again," she said, through a mouthful of bobby pins.

"Hmm?" He wasn't really paying attention to anything but the squat glass in front of him, squarish and green with numerous imperfections, cradled in his hands with a pool of slowly warming, caramel-colored whiskey nestled in its base.

"My brush. You know how I just bought another because I thought I'd lost the first? Well, this one's gone, too, and--"

She was off on another tirade, probably about the maid service or his brother or any stupid thing. I could see the careful lack of expression on his face from my hiding place in the corner. I remembered that expression. I knew it well from all the times I tried to speak to him as soon as he returned from the office. She was fighting a losing battle here. I could almost feel sorry for her. Almost.

She stabbed the last pin into her chignon and kept talking. It's really quite marvelous, I think, that he keeps picking these tiny tank-like girls, who are so adamant in their organization and their requirements for attention. Do they remind him of me? I don't think I was ever quite so needy, but they say everyone is blind to their own faults until we see them in others.

"And then Elizabeth said that she'd seen a girl who said that her cousin used to work for you and your second wife, the banker, right? Anyway, this cousin said that your second wife's belongings went missing in the exact same ways while she worked here, I think she said her name was Maria? Well, they're all named Maria, aren't they? And you switched maid services and she lost her job, yes, another sob story but I was wondering..."

Was that all in one breath? He's not even looking in her direction and she's talking like she'll be paid by words per minute.

Finally he looks up from his drink and I come out from behind the vanity. I know he sees me. He always has. His hands tighten around the glass, nearly hard enough to break it, and he tosses off the last swallow of whiskey in a rush. When he sets his glass down, hard, on the corner table, I drift over to stand next to him. I smile at him, and staring deep into his blue eyes, I begin to unbutton my dress, the high neck and ribbon collar sweeping down over my collarbone, the livid rope burn still standing out like a brand on my pale skin. It undulates like a finger of seaweed in a tidal pool with my silent laughter, moving up and down across my vocal cords.

It does still hurt, God knows why, but it's all worth it, every long night of moving stupid things around, all these years of having to stay so close to the man who threw me off the twenty-third floor with a nylon rope knotted clumsily around my neck.

It's all worth it, then, because his jaw tightens and in the next instant he interrupts her neverending flow of words and questions to bark, "I don't believe in ghosts." He's still looking at the mark around my neck and the best part is, she wasn't even talking about her missing hairbrush anymore, she's moved on to the weekend's social flurry, and now she looks as if she's wondering if the stories might be true.  If the suicide of his first wife might have driven him a little crazy.  Or if the other stories are true, and it wasn't a suicide at all.  

I steal a couple of cigarettes out of his jacket pocket and touch him on the back of his neck.  He jumps slightly, and the sweat starts to bead on his temples.

"I'm going to the bar," he says, cutting her off again, and nearly running for the front door.  She just stands there with her well-bred little mouth clamped shut, and I pick up a lighter from the hall table, because after all I've been through?  At least I don't have to worry about lung cancer.