The Mysteries of Waking

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The dry rasp of his eyes opening dispelled the dust that had accumulated in the grooves of his skin.  His sudden indrawn breath created motes in the dim light of the early dawn.

His body jerked violently upward and a wretched cry burst from his lips as gravity pulled him to the dry, rotted floorboards.  Thin slivers of wood punctured his skin while he lay there panting.

It was a matter of moments before he pieced together that the slick wetness his hands and head lay in glittered with a crimson sheen.  The surface of the pool was broken as he struggled to push himself away from it.

Wildness radiated from his large eyes as his hands searched his body for the source of the blood.  Streaks of it ran up the walls and glistened against the filthy popcorn ceiling.  Horror ruled the curves of his face as he spied the body draped unceremoniously over the small chest in the corner.

Tears cut runnels through the scarlet splashed across his face as his body shook, “How long have I been here?  How many days?  How many months?  Each morning it’s the same.  More blood on my hands and a new body somewhere in here.”

His eyes lit upon the long piece of cool metal that rested forlornly under the saggy and broken bed frame.  Greedily, his fingers reached for it.  It was cold to the touch, much colder than the room would allow.

“Why is this happening?” he cursed against the four walls of his prison.  “How many times have I tried to leave and yet I always find myself here,” his eyes lit upon the form on the chest, “with only the company of a corpse.”

The slide of the M1911 pulled back to frame an empty chamber before it slipped back with a violent click.  The magazine clattered against the floor, but he could tell from the sound that it was empty.

The pistol fell loosely from his grip before he looked skyward, “Why is it always a different body?  Where do they come from?  Where do they go?”  His bloodied hands clutched at the skin stretched over his skull, “Am I going mad?”

A woman watched as he pulled himself under the bed from the tiny monitor bolted to the desk.  Her lips curled of their own accord as she grabbed the handset of the old rotary phone and her long, painted nail dialed 0, 1, and 0.

The buzz and click sounded loud in the confines of the security station, but she remained languid until the voice came through.  “Yes sir, I believe this one is almost ready.  Only another day or two.  Thank you, sir.”

The phone clacked against the ancient plastic of its body.  Her fingers steepled as she continued to watch him through the monitor, “Only another day or two…”

Lost on the Dark Streets

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I was alone in the alley and it was dingy.  Pools of gray water were trapped in pits by the edges of the buildings.  Pieces of garbage floated by in some while in others they had sunken beneath their miniscule waves.  There was a smell to the place that could be said to be indescribable only in the sense that a person wouldn’t want to bother with the time and research it would take to find out to do so.

Shadows were everywhere; some layered deeply enough to become impenetrable by any light.  Others were just on the edge of the cone of brightness from the bulb above.  There was little of interest here, so why had I agreed to meet here?

In a fit of boredom and the need for a sense of control, I opened the case and pulled out the six string.  Two string sets in double octaves that created a richer tone.  The wood of the instrument fairly glowed under the poor street lamp.

Warily, I placed my hand against the strings and felt the roughness of the bound wire.  My fingers curled into position and I strummed the strings ever so lightly.  Melancholy filled the air and burgeoning light began to filter through one of the walls that enclosed the alley.  An ancient song came to mind and the words fluttered to my lips.  I played alone in that place for what felt like eternity yet must have only been a fleeting moment.

A voice spoke quietly from the edge of darkness, “Yes, my friend, I was right.  This is a place for magic, where the walls between the universes are so very thin.”

His pointed teeth glittered like starlight from the blackest of the shadows as the strings under my fingers continued to vibrate their tones in this shabby space between buildings… between worlds.

(Photo by Kaique Rocha from Pexels https://www.pexels.com/photo/street-urban-japan-brasil-50859/)

Bridge over the River

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It had a taken a week but the body of the missing young woman had been found.  Her arms and legs had kept her lodged between the railings of the bridge.  But finding her corpse only led to more questions.

The locals had spoken about a young couple who had been seen camping out in the nearby forest but neither of them had set foot in town in the past couple weeks.  The search for the lady had begun once the police had fished her husband’s body out of the river.  The need to find her had grown once the black and white photos sealed in plastic bags were discovered in his coat pockets.

The pictures told a story of a young couple on vacation.  They ranged from candid shots at a gas station, to posing in front of a ball of twine and a monument or two.  The photos slowly degraded into a gruesome end for the woman.

The husband’s body showed no physical forms of trauma.  It simply looked like he had drowned.  She had rope burns around her ankles and wrists.  The photos unfolded the horror that she had suffered through on her last days.

While still alive, she had been stretched taut between two trees until her husband had cut her arteries and she bled out.  The last of the pictures showed her husband as he worked diligently to cut the organs out of her body before he cleaned them carefully.  Each of her organs were then carefully sealed in plastic bags and then placed back into the open cavity in their proper place.

The most troubling part was that cases like his had been appearing all across the country in the past couple months.  Each one had the old black and white photos of the organs being removed and cleansed.  Nothing linked the victims together, nothing at all.

The detectives were left with two main questions, who had taken the pictures and where had they been developed?  Was this a single person or was there more than one photographer?

(image courtesy of Ryan McGuire of https://www.tinyrobotcreative.com/)

Circles within Circles

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He awoke as if from a dream.  He pirouetted before he slid across the floor to his next partner.  Her mask was a creature of nightmare and it startled him.

“How long have I been here?” he wondered.  “How long have I been dancing?”

But he continued to glide his way along the dance floor from one freakishly masked partner to the next.  Confusion took him and his movements began to slow.  His steps began to falter as he realized, “Why can’t I stop?”

His vision swam and distorted laughter rang in his ears but still he continued to move.  His last dance partner threw him into a dip before spinning him like a top.  Around and around he went as he careened along the dance floor until he slipped and fell onto the tiles and found himself resting against the fireplace.

It felt like he was laying on a bed of moss and the ballroom smelled of the forest.  He giggled haphazardly as he tried to stand but he tripped on a pile of long hair.  His bushy brows obscured his sight but he realized that he had slipped on his snowy white beard.

But he could only remember being clean shaven and it had been black as the darkest of nights.  “My hair?  It is so pale!  Why is it so long?”  He wondered as the ballroom faded away.   He found himself with his back against the trunk of a tree in a vast forest.  A lonely ring of mushrooms encircled him.

“Why do I feel so old?  Am I so tired from dancing?”

A voice whispered in his ear, “Good night sweet prince.”

The lids of his eyes closed of their own volition as snow began to fall upon his body from the branches above.

He didn’t wake that night or ever again.  His bones still grace that fairy circle and they do not rest alone.

The Morning After

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The lids of his eyes split open and a grunt escaped his lips.  Through the grumbling pain only one thought occupied his mind, why did he have such a pounding headache?  Carpet fibers wiggled their way between his fingers and brushed against the sides of his chest.  Why was he laying on the floor?  Groggily he got to his feet.

The last thing he remembered was that after a fifteen hour driving day, they had pulled into this tiny town somewhere in the middle of the Southwest.  This little motel on the side of the road had vacancies and it was cheap.  It had been a long day but the two of them were finally almost to California.

He ran his hand through his messy hair and his fingers snagged into something sticky.  At the same he muttered, “Why is the carpet wet?”

He pulled his hand free from his hair and looked down.  Sticky redness coated his feet but he also noticed a couple empty wine bottles lying haphazardly on the carpet.  A chuckle burst out, “We must’ve had one hell of a night…”

With a long stretch, he made his way to the small bathroom.  As he struggled to find the light switch, he scratched at his lower back and a brittle material broke under his fingernails.  Once the light clicked on he glanced down and old crusted blood fragments were trapped in the crease of his nails.  Bemusedly, he looked up into the mirror below the bright lights and stood there in absolute shock.

Old blood spattered the filthy t shirt that looked like he had been lying in it. His feet squelched as he dug them into the bathroom mat. He looked down in confusion, “What the fuck…”

Fear tingled down his spine as it began to eat at him.  In a panic he ran into the main room and his eyes grew wide in horror. Blood sprayed the walls and the ceiling peeling from the weight of it.  The bed sheets lay in ragged rust streaked piles.  In the center of it all, was her.  No breath moved her chest and she was as pale as if she had never seen the sun.  Her freckles stood out starkly against the pallor of her skin.

The mattress was fair to bursting with her blood.  On the cleanest corner of it, her internal organs were splayed out individually and placed in a perfect pattern of their placement in the body.  Each of them had been meticulously cleaned of her blood before being placed there.

He choked on the keening that burst from his throat as he fell to his knees.  Tears sprouted from his face as he crawled over to her corpse.  As he clutched her unresponsive body, he shook.  Grief ripped through him as well as a blind rage, who would do this to her?

Slowly, he let her slip from his grasp to fall back to the reddened mattress.  He ground the tears from his eyes into his face.  He got to his feet and looked for his phone.  It took some doing but he finally found it lying under the bed stand.  The battery was dead but the charging cord was right next to it.

It took a few minutes for the phone to boot up and its little chime echoed in the quiet room.  He stared at the screen blankly.  The date was wrong.  It had to be.  “We’ve been here a week?  No way.  It’s just not possible…”

He dialed the Police and waited for them to pick up.  Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed a vintage camera lying on its side on top of a pile of black and white photos.  The camera wasn’t one he’d seen before.  While hold music blared in his ear, he wandered over and picked up some of the pictures.

Just then, a voice came over the line, “911, what’s your emergency?”

“I need to report a murder…” his dead voice uttered into the receiver.  He sat on the edge of the bed and steadily answered the questions that he was asked.  Idly, he sifted through the photos in his hand. Strangely the people in them looked familiar. They were of him and his wife at different stops along the trip.  He flipped through them until he came across the first of the motel room itself.

The first one was the two of them unpacking. The next were the two of them sharing a glass of wine after they had showered.  There was a series of photos as they made love. Each of the photos had been taken from inside the room.

The remaining few in his hand showed his back as he approached the bed and plunged a knife into her chest, repeatedly.  The phone slipped from his fingers as he rifled through the pile of photos under the camera.  Both he and his wife were in every single photo and the images grew worse.  He shook as he went through them again and again while a tinny voice echoed in the background from his phone, “Sir?  Are you there? Sir?”

“We weren’t alone.  Someone was with us the whole time.  But who was it?”

The door burst open and the police subdued him quickly.  The entire time, he kept shouting, “Who was the photographer?  Who was it?”

Scents of Adventure

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Harry could feel it in his bones.

Today was ripe with the possibilities of adventure.  The sun was shining, the world smelled warm and life was all around… squirrel!  Harry yanked on the collar about his neck and watched forlornly as the little beast took off to the higher branches.

“So close!  So close I could taste it!’

But what was that fragrance in the air?  Where was all that noise coming from?  “Aha!”

There were humans on the weird stone path that wasn’t stone.  And with them was a canine he didn’t know!  His tail wagged hard.  He strained at the leash until he was able to sniff the air around them.  The humans came to a stop.  They made their strange grunting’s and whining’s to each other as they are wont to do.

“Hi, I’m Harry!  You smell like adventure!”

“Hi, I’m Lucille! And you smell like adventure too!”

The aroma of Lucille’s humans spoke of other places… other worlds that he couldn’t even imagine.  Everything about them was mystery.  And where there was mystery there was a tale to tell.

Harry barked, “I saw a squirrel!  Almost got him too.”

“I almost caught a bird!” Lucille howled.  “There were so many birds!”

Suddenly, there was a rustling in the leaves and a small brown creature shot up a tree trunk.  Both Harry and Lucille stopped talking and growled together, “Chipmunk!”  Their eyes tracked the small animal as it stared back at them from a safe distance.

“I am so excited right now!  I can barely contain myself!” yipped Lucille.

“Me too!  Oh my goodness!”

Harry felt a tug on his leash.  The humans grunting’s carried the tone that meant the end of things.  As the two groups separated, Harry yelped back, “Maybe we can talk of our adventures again sometime!”

“Yes!  We should do that!”

But Harry knew that a new adventure was waiting right around that corner and he shot off toward it.  His human was heavy but with the right pull, he had him going.  Oh yes, adventure was right ahead and he could smell it.

(image courtesy of Ryan McGuire of http://www.gratisography.com/)

Tea & Time

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“Is it tea time?” she asked.

The edge of his newspaper dropped, “No.  It is not tea time yet.”

He lifted the corner of the newspaper back up and continued reading.  With the edge of her bath robe trailing behind her, she paced back and forth across the room.  Slowly, she came to a stop in front of him.  Her toe began to tap.  As the tapping grew more insistent, he hunkered down behind his paper.

The staccato beat of the tapping came to a stop and silence filled the room.  With a slow and calculated motion, he peeled the corner of his paper back and took a quick peek.  She stood there with her arms crossed and the glare of all glares burned back at him.  He let the corner come back up but the paper was torn from his fingers.

It was then that she noticed the cup sitting next to him.  Shock registered on her face as the steam wafted slowly from the tiny porcelain vessel.

“What is that in your cup?”

“It’s coffee.  Let me explain…” he muttered haltingly.

“Explain?  Explain?” she cried.  “You have broken the main tenement of the morning drink!  Do you know the damage you could have done?”

“Damage?”

She grabbed the cup and held it close to her chest.  With a quick sip, she drained it.  As her eyes widened until the iris was completely surrounded in white, she sucked in a whistling breath.

The words she spoke ground out past her teeth, “There is a process in place for the drinking of morning beverages.  You start with tea, always with tea.  You don’t jump in willy nilly with coffee!”

The room darkened and her pupils dilated.  An odd light effused around her as the room grew smaller.  Her voice boomed loudly, “Tea is the beginning, the first of the firsts and it lays the groundwork.  Time will begin to accelerate and your control will be in place.  Once the groundwork is laid, you can follow with the bean of the coffee plant.  Time will become malleable to your touch and you will be pleased.  Only now can you drink of the yerba mate and feel like a God!”  Strange laughter exploded from her.

The man cringed in his chair and closed his eyes tightly.  The room grew silent and he felt warmth on his eyelids.  He could hear a bird lilting in a tree through the window. He carefully pried one eye open and then the other.  Everything was as it had been and she had a beatific smile painted across her lips.

He muttered into the lovely morning of this fine day, “Well, uh… I had no idea.  My apologies.”

She dropped the neatly folded newspaper into his lap.  As she turned away to leave the room, she stated, “Don’t go messing with the timelines, my good man.  There are consequences!”

It’s a Trap

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It was a beautiful night.  The young couple held hands as they walked around the pristine lake near their camp.

She pulled her hand free and pointed at the glowing ball in the sky.  In the most theatrical tone she could muster, she cried, “That’s no moon!  That’s a space station!”

His shoulders tightened as he kept walking but his face screwed up in anger, “Oh my God!  Will you stop already?”

Her grin dropped, “Stop what?”

Abruptly, he stopped and turned toward her, “You have been making Star Wars references all day today.”

He began to count out each instance on his fingers, “When we left on this trip morning, you said, “Adventure? Hmmpf!  Excitement?   A Jedi craves not these things.”  When I was trying to give you directions to this campground, you came back with “Travelling through hyperspace aint like dusting crops, boy.”

In frustration, his hands fell to his side, “Never mind when we arrived here, you went all “You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.” Even when I told you I loved you, you replied “I know.”

“It’s not my fault.” She said with smirk.

His teeth ground into each other, “You’re doing it again!”

She sighed loudly, “No reward is worth this.”

“Stop!  Stop it!  I can’t take it anymore.”

Maybe she had gone too far but she couldn’t resist the urge, “Well, you said you wanted to be around when I made a mistake.”

He just glared at her.

Suddenly, the sky lit up with a green haze that only grew brighter.  He glanced up and noticed that it seemed to come from the moon.  “I have a bad feeling about this.”

With a sense of triumph she shouted, “The circle is now complete!”

Daylight Savings Time Grievance

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I wake suddenly from a dream and I am lost.  Blearily, I watch a vortex form above me.  What is this place?

A beast screams its strident tone repeatedly.  Its red eyes glare at me.  I smack at the monster until it quiets but its disgruntled presence fills the room.

My body tells me that I am bound.  Am I sandwiched between the petals of a flower?  Or is this luncheon meat that surrounds me?

I realize that these are the sheets that I sleep within.  The vortex is the ceiling fan as it does its lazy dance.  The beast is the clock by my side.  Its angry red eyes the numbers that equal time.

Darkness reigns supreme. Why do you still exist Daylight Savings Time?

Crime is For Fighting

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“I’m a super hero!” the little boy cried out.  “I fight crime in the most dastardly of places against the most evil of foes!”

He took off running toward the far corner store of the little borough.  With a flip of his cape, he burst into the shop, “Mr. Store Man, have you spotted any crime happening?”

The manager of the shop smiled down at the young lad, “Why no, I haven’t.  Did you check the Laundromat?  I hear that’s where they hide out.”

The little boy put his hands on his hips and stuck his chest out, “I was there earlier this morning with my mom.”  He got closer to the store manager and whispered loudly in that way that young kids do, “I was under cover, you see.”  His eyes lit up in shock, “But I mustn’t tell you my secret identity!”

As the older man chuckled, “We appreciate you keeping our neighborhood safe.”

“Of course!” cried the boy.  “It’s what I do.”

The young boy stepped back and looked around the store.  Once he was satisfied that there wasn’t a criminal lurking about, he wiped his arm across his forehead.

“Fighting crime is thirsty work, Mr. Store Man.”

(image courtesy of Ryan McGuire of http://www.gratisography.com/)