Skin Girl

Drumbeat batters breeze bare-knuckled. Bloody, if it could. Tut-tut-tut transforms the atmosphere into something tormented. Tortured. Just a sliver shy of a scream.

I sway to the sound, skin soaking in its scathe. Absorbing the maim and claim. The tug and tear.

In the thick of the crowd, illuminated by a mix of fire and faint moonlight, a figure fights the drum’s beating. Twists sharp turns to thwart possession. To prevail. A losing game.

Once lured in, that’s it.

Other figures clap, pound flesh till the night seems alive with its own rhythmic pulse, thrumming steadily through the battered air. A grunted chant rumbles in time.

Somewhere, deep in the wood surround, a wolf howls. Tears at night’s skin. A territorial call if I’ve ever heard one. A victorious brag. I grip the skin I’m in. Tame growl into grumbling chant. Return sight to the light bathing those gathered in shades of dark red.

The dancer nearest flame, so deeply red they’re shadow on smoke, throws back their head–theirs and the bear skull that swallows it whole. An echoing, bellicose bellow–growl–silences both flesh and drum beat.

Another deep sound, the wolf.

A last, me.

For now.

Closely, I watch the dancer shed the bear skull. Slide claws as long as fingers from their hands. Keep the grizzled pelt wrapped ’round their wide shoulders, though. For warmth, maybe. The skin in place ’round their meaty waist.

Two figures donning wolf skulls and matching hides separate from the crowd as the lone bear dancer returns to it.

Beats begin their battering blows once more. Less heavy. More lean. Like wolf meat. Night’s pulse picks up in a low thrum, a lower hum. Faintest scream.

I track the bear dancer as they cut through the crowd, one toothy smile at a time. A short laugh or two. My rhythm mirrors theirs. Overtakes it. Sleek. Light. A slow skulk. Steady hunt.

We meet where the edge of the crowd kisses forest fathoms.

Bear Dancer slashes a charming smile across their face, distinctive jaw jutting upward with its self-assured slant as if to display the many scars crisscrossing sensitive skin like trophies. One rather deep cut is still raw. Fresh. I curl my fist.

It’s him.

A grin of my own begins to stretch flesh. Tempt tearing. Bear dancer’s widens in return. Devours his face.

“Hello,” he steps into my sway. “Like tonight?” I nod, grin sharp enough to put Bear Dancer to shame.

“You dance good.” Another growl tamed into something softer. “It’s striking,” I motion to the pelt on his back. “your form.”

“Yes.” He preens, fingering the fur. I swallow fury. “A lucky catch, bear. Usually, they keep to their caves.”

“Ah?” I drag him back to me. “Where’d you get the bear then?”

“Clearing by Slim River.” His voice is proud. “Mama and cub hunting. Hare, probably. I got Mama first in the side with my spear. When she charged, I got her in the head with my handy ax. She clawed, though.” He taps his scarred chin. “A fighter.”

Huntress.” I correct.

“Yes.” Bear Dancer nods, looking grave. “Very fierce. The others threw many spears till she went down. The cub though,” Bear Dancer’s grin returns. “was easy. Little fella. A club to the head.” Bear Dancer swings his arm past my face. “Dead.”

“Dead.” I repeat, dead, stepping back into forest, spiny nettles brushing bare skin. Swirl my hips. Bear dancer follows. “Poor boy.”

“There were two.” He leans close as if revealing a secret. “Cubs. Two of ’em. Always with Mama but not this time. Very odd.” He quirks his head. “Bears don’t usually keep more than one. Too hard to feed. Keep only the strong one…. Wonder where the runt is? The little fella cried out after he was hit. Almost like a scream. Maybe–”

She heard.” I finish with too much gnash. “The sister?” Bear dancer gives me a confused look and I reach for his hands–the ones that were wearing Mama bear’s claws–settling them on my waist.

“Yes.” Bear dancer tightens his hold on me. I lead us further behind branches. Beyond the fire light’s creeping reach. “You know the story?” Now, I quirk my head. Take another backward step. “About the sister cub. That she’s one of us. Child lost from the tribe long ago. Found by bears. Clothed in their skin.”

“I hadn’t heard.” Another step. So close.

“Not from ’round here?” Bear Dancer asks. “Was wondering…. You look familiar but can’t place face.”

Finally. Trees give way to open space. A clearing. Nearby, a watery babble replaces drum beats. Flesh beats. Moonlight overtakes flickering flame.

“It’s not my usual.” I brush Bear Dancer’s hands off me and he tilts his chin. That fresh cut. Shiny red beneath the moon. I flex my fingers. Feel nails sharpen. “Face.”

A swipe of my claw to the head and Bear Dancer is down. For brother.

I’m on him before he knows what hit him, my lithe body now heavier. My skin, fur. Much better. Weight settles on my shoulders–my skull no prop large enough to swallow a head whole. Bear Dancer’s. I stare into his wide eyes, grizzly reflection in their glisten. I can’t smile anymore so a snarl will have to do. Recognize me now?

“S-s-skin-n-w-w-wwalk-ker-r.” He accuses.

No, a growl like a laugh rumbles in my cavernous chest. I told you. Huntress. 

A claw finds purchase in the mark Mama carved so I’d know and tugs. Jaw gone before Bear Dancer can scream. Then, claws like little spears and teeth like ax blades find flesh. Tear. Bite bone, too, creating their own beat, own chant. Rhythm.

And, when the song is done, I toss my head back. ScreamTear the night in two. It’s no victory screech. No brag. Nothing celebatory. It’s a warning. An announcement.

I’m here.

I’m coming.

I’m hungry.

The battle is mine.

****

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*Side note: those last words are coincidentally my first thoughts in the morning…. Weird. ^.^

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Attrition

Behind the barrier are bits and pieces, shards

of shattered glass, fragments of battered bone, a girl

in slices of herself, writing

each down, committing the splinterings to memory

through word weaving,

through cathartic construction of confession into bite-size commodity for consumption

predominantly hers.

Beyond the threshold is Pandora’s reverse–curse–a home for holdout hope

who couldn’t escape so stashed her whole self away. Endlessness

encapsulated. The opposite

of liminal space. Comprehension rendered obsolete in the face

of an open door,

an invitation to extend yourself, to hope for more than

brokenness.

~KJH

****

You can find this poem on YWP here ^.^ It was written in response to this challenge on the site. Obviously, I went for a more, shall we say, abstracted approach. What can I say, I’m a bits n’ pieces kind of gal. No duh.

Hope you enjoyed~

(Share your own responses to the challenges in the comments below is you want)

Split Girl

See.” Auntie would hiss, breath-half mist-half piss–spit splattering across my face like soggy freckles. “Don’t you see?”

Spittle soaking deep into bone, I’d bob my neck up down. A metronome kicked on its side. But that was never enough.

My compliance meant nothing till it suffered. Till I suffered.

Till I looked.

“Can’t you see?” A banshee-screech that bounced off mirrored glass like my small skull in Auntie’s gargantuan grip. Bang. Bang. 

“I see.” My raspy exhale fogged the glass.

“See what?” Bang.

“I see a sister slayer.” Yours. “Mommy murderer. Blood traitor.” The worst kind of betrayer. The kind that bathed in their victim’s blood and cried out in wailing victory.

“What else?” Auntie pressed–my head harder into my fisheye-like reflection.

“I see,” I swallowed. Chewed the tip of my tongue. Bang. “a pretty dress.”

“And,” Auntie dragged the consanent across her crooked incisors.  “what do you say?”

“Thank you,” Bile slid down my throat. Spit settled on my face. “Auntie.”

I was released with a huff that coated me in another spray of slimy, grimey, salted spit. Tasted like Mommy‘s tears. Probably. I wouldn’t know. Won’t. I sagged into myself.

“Good boy.” I’m not.

Satisfied, Auntie would slink off and I would scramble back from smudgey glass. Smooth my hands down silk. With fingertips, find frills, find something like-comfort-but-not-quite in the edges.

I’m not.

What? Auntie’s spit simmered on my skin. My fists clenched frills flat.

Boy. Bang. Good. Bang.

I’m not.

****

Auntie comes to see that for herself. Eventually. She has no choice but to.

Not when my shoulders brush the height of hers. Not when my eyes meet hers on an upward climb. An ascent.

The few photos kept reveal Mommy had a good head above Auntie. My good head, now. The only good thing about me, according to Auntie.

Still, Auntie takes me to the mirror. Stands me before myself and demands–See.

See what you’ve done to your mother, boy. To me.  

Auntie reaches for my lengthy curls–for leverage–but the bang is already echoing in my ears. The spit already boiling fresh on my flesh–each drip of dribble like a teardrop at the corner of two lids kissing. I flutter.

Auntie is against the glass in a spin that twirls my skirt.

“What, bo–”

See.” It isn’t a hiss. Nor, an order. It’s the slightest, crunchy-squish of a hard-shut eye opening. Blossoming. Ricocheting ad infinitum off mine and Auntie’s super-imposed reflection.

“Wha–” Bang.

See.” Frills brush Auntie’s skin like eye lashes, gentle but coated black so they curl. “Can’t you see?”

Another bang and she does. She looks and–

“I see.” Of course, Auntie spits it–in our shared face. My glassy-eyed part of the reflection doesn’t relent. though. Not now.

What?” Bang. Red joins spit. “Auntie, what?”

“I see,” She huffs when struggling only intensifies red. “a sister slayer.” Mommy’s. I bob my head. Auntie’s lip curls sharp. “A Momma’s bo–” Bang. The mirror cracks.

Auntie gasps, splattering crimson in our splintered reflection. It’s splitting down the middle. Like a large eyelid.

“See what?” Like glass, my voice cracks. Auntie can’t stifle her snicker. Bang. Bang. Bang. She stops. “You see Mommy’s what?”

“–aughter.” Auntie spits between a newly chipped tooth and mouthful of shards. I crook a brow and she tries again, “Daugh…ter.”

“What else?” I roll her limp head till she’s staring straight at the split separating as it joins. “What else do you see?”

“Blood…” Her gurgle hides her reflection’s eye beneath a red coating. Again, a try. A cry. “blood…tr…blood-y….dr….ess….”

She slumps into herself like one lid folding down and I rise from her like the other lid sliding up.

“Thank you, Auntie.”

My fingers find wet frills, edges soaked in and dyed a colour they’ve always been afraid of. Blamed for. A colour I’ve not worn since my first and only–till now–victory.

What would Mommy say?

See?

I wipe the glass before my eyes till I peek through red. Split open and smiling. Fingertips brush the toothy slash.

Good girl. I nod.

I am.

****

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**This is the painting in the Featured Image for this post. Saw it at a recent trip to the Whitney Museum in the city and–fell in love–but also felt like it would be perfect for this sweet vicious little story**

Ghost Girl

All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream.

~ Edgar Allen Poe

Mama went in her sleep.

How she wanted. How she dreamed.

Death is an illusion. An imagined end. Mama rasped toward her own foreseeable ending, breaths short and shallow. We don’t live here. We live inside. When you dream, my little ghost, look for me. I will be there.

So I did.

When Mama moved on from here, I searched–inside. Reached into the recesses. Haunted my hollow spaces, hoping for a familiar specter. A lingering trace, no trick of longing.

What I found, though, was smoke and mirrors, fogged glass stretching for as far as the eye can fathom. A maze of murky reflections and, wailing through it like a willowy wind-chime in a gale, Mama’s voice, beckoning.

I’m lost, little ghost. A hazy figure in the fog. I reach for it till fingertips kiss frigid glass. Help me find my way. Cold stings skin. Just a smudgePlease. It hurts.

Mama wasn’t a beggar. A bargainer, yes, but never desperate. If she ever appeared as such, it was an act. A performance. A scheme. Artifice. Those smoke and mirrors.

See, in the waking realm, Mama was a magician. I, her faithful assistant. Mama lowered the curtain and I disappeared. She held the saw and I split in two shards.

Defying death, Mama would tell the evening’s adoring audience, her top-hat tipped to stymie applause. is child’s play. A dream forgotten upon waking. A little ghost, her hand on my shoulder, proud. of who you were. If asked nicely, they’ll return. Show you how to remember. How to escape.

Please. Mama calls now, from deep within mirrored halls. Come.

So, like a faithful assistant, I do. I split in two.

I follow the sound of Mama’s imploring cries, her delighted giggles when I hit a dead-end. Hunt the hush of footfalls, discordant echoes off emptiness. Raindrops tap-tap-tapping the glass in out-of-tandem staccato. Pitter-patter-pat. Like a taunt.

Mean.

Hiding was an acquired skill of mine–from Mama. Crouching in crawlspaces, tucking limber limbs from suspicious, searching sight. Mama taught me all I knew. Every trick…

Or, so I thought.

Suddenly, a shimmer through the fog–the sparkly band ’round Mama’s trusty top-hat. I give chase. Pat, pat, pat–around sharp corners, down splintering corridors, a tinkling of… bells? in my ears. Maybe wind whistling through chimes….?

A silvery glint twists left. I clip my shoulder veering after it. Hear an explosion of clinks and of tinkling–feel a tingling run up my arm. Realization dawns. It’s glass. The sound is glass. Broken bits and pieces flinging through the air.

The mirrors are shattering.

I pick up my pace. Ignore the jagged fragments gnawing at my heels, biting into the tender flesh. This is not the end. Mama promised. There isn’t one. Not in my dreams.

At last, the top-hat is in reach. I thrust out a numb arm. Snag the hat by its brim. Tug it close for safe-keeping to my chest.

Immediately, silence falls.

Across the void to me. Then, the quiet stretches from where I stand, top-hat in hand, to the lone mirror before me. For once, the glass isn’t fogged, my reflection only a vague impression. No, now, when I look in the mirror, I find Mama.

She stares at me, a smile slashed from ear to ear. Her hand is outstretched and, after a measured moment, I move forward to meet her.

Fingertips caress glass, warmth seemingly radiating from within. Mama’s….my eyes glance from my recently captured prize back to my face. Put it on, they suggest. Then, little ghost, you’ll remember.

So, ever-faithful, I raise Mama’s glimmering top-hat to my head.

A perfect fit. I tip the brim.

As if in approval, Mama nods. My breath hitches. In my ears, a ringing–no, a pounding. InsideMama said. I will be there. I fall to my knees. Mama does the same.

Defying death is…. a little ghost of who you were. My hand brushes a shard, fingers its cracks, its poignancies. My reflection begins to tear. They’ll… show you how to escape.

“Little ghost… Little ghost… Little ghost…” Mama reclaims my fracturing focus, her grin splitting–sawing–her in two. It’s just the crack. “Are you there?”

“No,” Slowly, back and forth, I shake my head. The fog has cleared. The curtain lifted. Dream dissipated. I clench the shard in my grip till it cuts. “I’m here.

I shatter.

****

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It Will Be Satisfied

Swamp surrounds the village, dirt little more than sponge, sopping up so much water even the slightest of us must strap net stretched across stiff wooden slats to our feet or else risk being swallowed whole. Too many have become meals, preserved in the muck for unsuspecting outside-dwellers to stumble across on one of their daring jaunts to our reaches.

It’s why we’re called the People of the Mud.

Big sister, unruly and untamable, always donning a reckless sort of snaggled smile, became one such meal.

Hushed me in my hammock when climbing down from hers disturbed me. Told me, in a conspiratorial whisper, “It’ll be our little secret little sister, yes?” and vanished into the fathomless void our world is once nights descends. Her muck-shucks remained, I noticed at daybreak.

She never returned for them.

Blood, an elder in the hobbled hut stilted beside ours said when it was clear big sister was gone for good. The mud demands blood.

Mother and father said nothing in response to the elder. Nodded, yes, but kept their mouths sewn shut. I followed suit.

Said nothing when no vigil was held. Nothing when big sister’s hammock was filled not a year later by another child. Nothing when big sister’s muck-shucks were pried from my protective hold and broken like mother and father’s stitches. Remade, so carefully, for a smaller pair of pitter-patter feet.

Silence would mourn silence.

Would mourn a farewell never voiced. A closure, unsatisfied.

In the swamp, the mud is not the only thing that makes demands. That requires sacrifice. The water–there is ritual that must be performed before it will accept our dead.

Touch. We must bless the passed with one last memory of our touch. Must comfort them a final time, skin to mud-stained skin, or else risk their disgruntled spirit coming back with a vengeance for what was denied.

Flesh swallowed by the murk without lasting comfort never satisfies.

Is never satisfied.

It slithers out of the murk and into your hut at night. Up into your hammock. Coils ’round and ’round you till its smooth, scaly touch is all you can feel. All you will remember.

It sneaks up on you while you’re muck-shucking at dusk. Watches you with beady eyes from razory reeds, saw-tooth grass, biding it’s time till you tempt fate too close and then it is tusks through your soft tissue. Skin separated from stained skin. Cloven hoofs crunching bone so you’ll never forget.

It is a jagged-jawed maw lying in wait in the shallows’ shadows. Scaled hide shades of void and muddy murk. Eyes dim until the moment mother leans too far for the laundry line and topples into the drink. Till father wades too deep to rescue her.

Then, those dull eyes sheen blood-red. Like mine and baby sister’s in our murky reflections from our perch above.

Mud people? More like Blood people. 

Blood and bone and fleshy parts people. So easily made. Easier torn apart. Swallowed. Blood and bone and fleshy parts a delicacy our world delights in dishing out almost as much as it does in devouring it itself.

After, when the red goes ruddy, Its eyes flat like void-night again, there is an acknowledgement.

A looked shared between It and me.

Fully satisfied. Appreciative.

Accentuated by a toothy, reckless curl of Its vicious maw. Gone in an instant. With a single thrash of its reptilian tail, back into the murky depths it disappears. Finally able to rest.

Baby sister wriggles in my arms.

“Ma? Da?” She mumble-grumbles, pointing a pudgy finger at the settling murk. “Go?”

Shhhhh….” I soothe her struggling, her searching, my voice less than pacifying from long disuse. “It’s a secret.”

I glance down at the red streaks still swirling in the murk, the bone fragments floating like the broken bits of an old pair of forgotten muck-shucks. They weren’t forgotten.

“Our secret, yes?”

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Wrote this while I was pissed because I missed my train. Decided to make my frustration productive. Hope you enjoy~~

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Dream Girl

“Let’s go to our happy place.” Mommy would say when Daddy’s voice began to hit a certain octave–somewhere between a beastly bellow and a rumbling growl. It bounced off bone. Broke bone–when a slur accompanied it. Sometimes when it didn’t.

Mommy told the nurses I was clumsy–a topsy, turvy tot falling head over teapot. Lost in my own little dream land. The nurses never looked as convinced as Mommy did.

Hospitals were frequent but transient haunts, us hollow-eyed phantasms in advance mourning for the identities we’d hastily shed once clear of the emergency room’s sliding glass–don’t catch your doppelgänger’s eyes–doors. Make-believe Mommy and dream-clumsy daughter, a match made to burn.

Mommy ignited first. Led by example.
Shot herself up with liquid fire then drew my bath like a matchstick drawn across its box. Asked me to jump into the flames. Pretend I was a molten mermaid. Hold my breath till it was true. I’ll help you, my dreamy girl. Help you dream.

I don’t recall who helped me out of the tub. Breathed for my little lungs until they realized they were not gills and magma burned going down. Woke me. Some neighbor, maybe.

Not Daddy.

No, he was out cold in his la-z-boy parked in front of the TV set, lost to whatever place existed behind his icy blues. Dream land or darkness. Happy places aren’t given, dreamy girl. They’re created.

“Whaddya wan’?” Daddy grunted when an ee-em-tee in midnight-blue finally nudged the bulky shoulder he was using as a drool rag. Then, when he was informed told Mommy injected enough heroin into her veins to burst into flames went sleepy-bye like she wanted and asked if he knew about her prescriptions–for dis-ah-sea-ation?–in the medicine cabinet why, he muttered, “Crazy bitch” and rolled over.

I was taken away for a while.

Poked and prodded at hospitals. Questioned in white-on-white offices by white-on-white docs. Tossed like a hot-potato from one home to the next till finally returning to Daddy.

“Ya look like yer ol’ lady.” He says when we see each other again. Takes a swig from the bottle in his hand. “Crazy as her too, I hear. Freakin’ out the fosters at e’ery turn.” Another swig. A head shake. “Ya go goddamn gaga in that bathroom like her and you’re gone, capiche?” I nod when it’s clear he’s waiting for it. “Good. Just had it remodeled.”

Only the tub was replaced, I discover.

Swapped for one with less dingy porcelain. Less attempted-murder-successful…

It’s a blank slate. A white page reflected in the mirror above the sink. Don’t stare at your doppelgänger. It’s what got me booted from the last foster home.

(There’s only you, the docs said.

Mommy never liked docs. Dreamless, unhappy types, she said.)

Once Daddy leaves for his nightly bar crawl, my evenings are spent lying in the tub, legs stretched till toes find the lip of the drain, arms crossed over my chest as if I were in a casket instead. Sometimes, I add water–up to my neck how Mommy preferred.

Usually not.

Just me and my dreams–Mommy brushing my hair back, her fingers twitching in staccato against my scalp…. Daddy dragging me by the hair, throwing me into the tub and locking the door…. Slurred shouts and muffled screams…. Me staring at my reflection, a captive companion…. Mommy lowering me into the water that last time, Let’s go… to a happy place….

It’s all fragments. Phantasmagoria. Lucid dreaming.

I will doze, though. Fully. Especially when there’s water. Warm and inviting, it lulls me. Sounds safe and familiar, its lapping at my skin whispered secrets. Nonsense babble reminiscent of Mommy’s bath-side chatter.

Tonight, I wade into an accidental slumber.

The tub was empty when I got in. Now, as I am jolted awake, water is chin-high and beginning to overflow, trickle down porcelain to uneven tile in trails that slowly creep towards the doorway Daddy looms in.

A door screeching on its hinges, slamming to a halt against drywall. That’s what woke me. Not dreamed screams.

Daddy stumbles forward, his steadying hand thrusting the door backwards again. Bang. The weight of the water soaking my clothes, my skin, finally hits. No going goddamned gaga in the bathroom.

A stream licks the toe of Daddy’s boot, darkening the leather. I shiver. The water is cold.

This is gaga.

“Whad di’ I tell ya, girl?” Daddy slurs, drifting closer. Bracing himself with his other hand on the edge of the sink. “Whad I goddamn warn ya?”

Daddy,” I scramble to my feet, fighting drag, knees knocking each other. So cold. “A pipe must’ve burst–”

“Not in ma new goddamn bath!” Daddy pounds his fist down on the sink, its echoing thud consuming this tiny space. “You’re as crazy as her!”

“No, Daddy!” One leg makes it out of the tub. A bare foot finds tile. So, so cold. “I was jus-t-t-t…” My teeth chatter. I’m too, too cold to think of a good excuse. “lying down. Like I said, a pipe has to have burs-t-t-t-”

Crazy!” Daddy careens towards me. A fist finds purchase in my hair–tugs. Hard.

 Out of the tub, I’m lifted the rest of the way then thrown. My hip clips the sink, my head, the mirrored glass above. Something cracks. Belatedly, I wonder what ever happened to the medicine cabinet? Then, the pain catches up to me and I can’t think of anything but.

It’s more of a burning, scalding sensation that begins at the crown of my head and works its way down, my face–the left side–my neck, my shoulder, hip–goddamn–all the way to my toes. Did I say I was a little chilly earlier? What I meant was so numb, so wholly freezing that I feel like I’m on fire. Roasting alive. Magma in my veins.

Let’s go, dreamy girl.

Something warm and thicker than water trickles into my eye–the left one, gazing dead into my double’s eyes. They’re red and slashed across the middle. Crazy. They look crazy. Below, a grin is also slashed.

To our happy place.

My double lifts a shaky hand. Traces a crack with its trembling finger as if searching for an opening. Success!–I guess. Her smile sharpens, shattering what glass remains with its pointiness. With her fist.

There’s only you.

There is. Only me. I push myself off the sink, ignore the sting in doing so. The crack and pop. Only my happy place. The one Daddy’s perched on the edge of, leaning temptingly over, trying to plug a dam that can’t be. Not now.

Water sheets across tile, pooling in dips and missing spots. Icy hot. I barely feel it. The step or two I take toward Daddy. Hardly registers. I feel nothing.

She drowned, you know. A nurse said to an ordely when they thought they were out of white-on-white earshot. The girl’s mother. Enough dope in her system to kill her but that’s not what did. Woman drowned. And, the girl… she was found in a bathtub. Unconscious but unharmed. Some water in her too but other than that…. Suspicious, ain’t it?

No.

Mommy wanted to go to a happy place so she did. Needed a little help getting there, maybe, but it’s what she wanted. What she deserved. Rest, finally.

Another step. I feel nothing but awake.

Mommy wanted to sleep. To dream. I never did. There were only nightmares when I shut my eyes. Screams swallowed by slurred shouts, breaking sounds till silence. Peaceful pain but pain nonetheless. Searing, red-hot pain.

There were no dreams. None. No happy places–till I made one.

Last step.

I close the distance between where I stand and where Daddy leans. He’s got one meaty hand jiggling the tub’s faucet back and forth, the other reaching down for the drain, water up to his shoulder.

“One thing, goddamn it.” He grumbles. “Asked ya not to do one goddamn thing. An’, how difficul’ was it?” A hard yank of the faucet’s knob. A slurred curse. “Back to the fosters’ with ya! Hell, the crazy house!” He shakes his head. “Whad di’ I e’er do to deserve this….?”

I widen my stance, place a steady foot on either side of Daddy’s bent legs. Flex my fists. Brush glass shards off the one.

Another none-too-gentle yank rips the shiny knob off its shinier faucet head. It hits porcelain with a sharp, poignant clank. Daddy begins to turn my way.

“Hope you’re happy–” I will be.

The rest of Daddy’s speech becomes garbled, half-sputtering half-ineffable disbelief. He’s not used to receiving this kind of help. Giving it but not getting it. But, I want to do for him like Mommy tried to do for me. Like I did for her. Daddy’s given so much, he deserves this.

A shiver runs down my spine. Blood scorches beneath my simmering skin.

Thrashing is easily calmed with a few swift meetings of bone and porcelain. There goes the finish. Nothing was ever said ’bout anyone else going gaga in the tub.

Mommy didn’t struggle. Breathed like the mermaid she wanted me to be.

“Don’t ya want to be happy, Daddy?” I push down until porcelain keeps me from going further. Thrashing lulls into twitching. “Don’t ya think ya deserve to be?”

Slowly, twitching ceases, fades into stillness entirely. My hold doesn’t loosen till the bubbles stop rising, though. Guess he did think so. No matter, he stopped fighting it.

I rise and back away from Daddy. When my hip finds the pointy edge of the sink again, I realize how sore I am and, also, that the water has stopped flowing. There’s only painful silence. Reddened eyes glance at Daddy in the happy place. Peaceful pain.

My blood cools.

I face what’s left of the mirror and stare at my reflection. For the first time, I don’t see my double. I see what Daddy saw–Mommy.

“Happy?” I ask.

She nods, flashing me a smile.

I return it.

“Me too.”

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Hope you enjoyed~

***You can find more of my delightfully disturbing stories under the Killing It tag ^.^***

Tweet that Inspired this Story

 

 

 

 

 

Bone Girl .V

Flesh dreamed monstrous

beasts. Dreamed somber, faceless

vultures, abandoned

skeletons, splendid demons

of yesteryear, patient 

gargoyles.

Incredible beasts still

call, in the morning. But

only briefly, abandoning

scandalous actuality.

Tweet, tweet….

Ba-dump.

Mama bird was first a baby bird herself. A fledgling, picking at bones brought to the nest. Mama’s Mama bird was an excellent hunter. Proficient collector of Nature’s provisions. And, not a scrap ever went to waste.

Want not, baby bird. Mama’s Mama bird was ever-squawking. Nature always provides.

Mama’s Mama bird taught her everything she needed to know. How to search and skulk. To lure. Catch.

Then, how to use. How to prepare. Preserve. Get to the bone.

The wait, Mama bird tittered, thumbing a bony groove, makes it earned. You’ll understand soon. Good things come to those baby birds who wait. Savory things. 

Mama learned well how to wait. To be patient.

In dreams, she struck. Like the vultures she watched when Mama bird left the nest to stock up on reading materials.

Awake, she held her Mama bird’s bowl steady, the pound of the pestle harmonizing with another rhythmic beat in her young ears. She handed chips and fragments over for reading, performing her own in her head. Good thing Mama bird never touches me like she does the bone.

Blood older, she wove Mama bird’s ligaments for her, tight around the crone’s bony limb. Tighter still around her flabby neck.

Mama’s Mama bird was a good teacher. Good provider.

Too good, perhaps. Or….

Perhaps, Mama bird should’ve read her bone better.

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Mama provided.

***I know I wasn’t supposed to add text to this task. My bad. The poem I was able to piece together though reminded me of a pieced-together–er, well not anymore–character and I just had to write. Hope it doesn’t take away from anything. You can read the poem and the proceeding narrative as separate pieces if you prefer ^.^ Kudos to Stephanie as well!***

Wasteland Girl

Fog thick like honey but not half-so-sweet clogs the air.

Is the air.

Without a respirator, it would coat my throat, crawl down the black hole between my bony clavicles to cloy in my lungs. Convince me to claw at my chest till the pressure had an escape route. Ten routes to be exact.

Our atmosphere was the first to go.

Corroded by uncensored contaminants. Ignited by the bombs. I fell asleep beneath a burning sky, lulled by Mother’s staggered breaths. By Papa’s sniffles. He gave Mother his respirator. Choked before he began to claw–thank god for small favors, we were told.

The water went next.

Rivers ran dry. Oceans evaporated overnight. Brooks boiled in their basins. Tongues licked lake beds for every. last. drop.

                                                               drop.

                                                                             drop.

Some wells survived. Shut up tight before the blasts became white noise, a circadian hum. Burrowed deep into the bowels of bunkers that long-outlived their irradiated occupants.

Mother and I managed to commandeer one. Before marrying Papa and moving to the city, Mother grew up on a farm. Knew how to wield an ax. Cut clean. Came in handy.

She made me handy. In case anyone returned for their missing pieces. Made me hardy. At personal cost, perhaps.

She succumbed to the smog, like Papa. Gave me the respirator she wore when I broke mine. Careless child, Mother said, trading our masks. I ground my teeth. Bit my tongue. Thought I could still taste Papa’s final exhalations on the interior of my new protective gear.

What did that make her, I wondered, for raising a careless child? For misplacing her respirator in the first place? My answer came swift, like the bombs.

It made Mother dead.

Me, alone.

Mean.

I should’ve been nicer.

The farm was a cold, bitter place, Mother told me while teaching me how to wield the ax. Froze things. Windows shut. Truck doors in place. Blood. During slaughter, it became a solid, crimson sheet of ice across the fields. Bright, red slivers into dark trails as far as the eye could see. Like how the sky looks now, she remarked after my first clean swing. Time to colour the fields, followed the next.

Maybe….maybe, I could’ve been nicer if I wasn’t taught to be so hardy. If Mother wasn’t. If Papa were.

This world gives as good as it gets, though.

It got Papa and Mother.

Now, it has me.

Wind whips across the withering wasteland stretched before me, ruffling what few patches of green stubbornly remain, stinging skin. Overhead, clouds a sickly off-white– almost-muddyruddy-brown streak across the sky. On-and-off they’ve spit.

At the moment, acid rain falls in gentle drops across the still plain. Good thing I covered the well earlier. Each drip seems to sizzle upon impact, eroded dirt rising like embers.

In the distance, several shadows. Lumpy, lopsided blobs just peeking over the murky horizon. Further out, ruins rise like knives, jagged and rough but pointy enough to tear through honey-thick fog. Remnants of a church, I believe. Eastern Orthodox according to the slightly domed spikes. Dead spires, Papa rasped not long before the end.


The blobs grow bigger. Become more than vague impressions. A figure with a crutch under one arm. No other arm. Another hobbling on stumps. One dragging itself along. I grip the hilt of my ax, knuckles out. Widen my stance. A baleful breeze tugs at the strings of my Mother’s hand-me-down respirator.

Time to colour the fields.

Deceivingly cool drops graze what daring flesh is exposed. They burn. I don’t wipe them away. Let them slide down skin. Keep my hold tight around Mother’s legacy. Inhale my inheritance. Every bitter particle.

Shadows creep ever nearer. Dingy clouds dye the sky deep red. A sheer sheet of blood.

Time to colour.

My hands heavy with the weight of want. Mother’s. Papa’s. A careless child’s. A suffocating world’s.

Time.

It is not safe here.

That, I promise.

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Attribution:

@str_voyage

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Sound snippets ~cool site. check it out. (not sure if there’s a better way to embed sounds on WordPress *free of upgrade charge*… :/)

***All my short, sweet, & disturbing stories can be found under the Killing It tag ^.^***

Living Dead Girl II

Part I

Nights are always the worst. The loudest. Screams do not the sweetest of lullabies make. With time, though, I’ve found the most incessant sounds can become lulling. A buzzing hum, attracted to a torch burning low. Zzzz…. Zzzz…. The occasional sizzle of an Icarus acolyte.

Nana slept with a citronella candle on her night table, her ever-cracked window an invitation for all kinds of pests. Even in winter, the window remained a sliver shy of its sill. Wind wailed like a whistle through it. Nana whistled along as she lit her candle. As she lowered the match for me to blow out.

They don’t mean to keep us up, Nana said, tucking me in to bed. They’re just lost and scared. You’d cry too. You will. Trust me, ThanaIt’s better if you’ve got a light on when the tears come.

On a little hackneyed table in the back room, a citronella candle rests. Dust chokes the wick.

Silence c r e e p s as the sun rises…. well, at the very least, screaming settles into negligible staccato as the living world awakes.

Two beady, black eyes meet mine first thing. A blink. An inquisitive crook of its head, perhaps curious at meeting a pair of eyes darker than its own, and the bird takes off. Too small to be a crow. Perhaps a rook? Or, a magpie? Corvids have called these cemetery grounds home for almost as long as my ancestors have. Lately, the birds have been leaving gifts. Shiny, polished things. Buttons and charms. Detritus of life.

This morning, I find only an smooth, inky feather.

A big stretch dislodges the quilt I don’t recall tucking around my shoulders last night. It’s the silvery one with the threads like comet trails. Must’ve sparkled in the moonlight. I’m surprised the birds didn’t tear it apart.

I leave my feathery gift on the sill for now. The quilts need folding and the salt on the floor, sweeping. Me, feeding.

Mornings are quiet affairs, interrupted only by chirps here and there, accompanied always by a warm mug of herbal tea. Jasmine, today. The only sizzle that unsettles the air is the one that lets me know my omelette is ready to be flipped. Nana made the best omelettes, from eggs Ol’ Sid brought fresh from the farm twice a week.

Now Sid stares in my window twice a week, hollowed gaze like two, bulbous black eggs.

I eat around the burnt edges of my omelette. Mentally add a carton of eggs to the list. When breakfast is done, I clear the counter. Place my plate in the sink. Leave the pan I made my omelette in on the burner. I’ll have another for dinner. Sid keeps his distance when I do.

My fragrant tea comes with me back into the main room. Past a small white table with two matching chairs and a flower to boot. Past mattresses–junkyard and estate sale finds– for walls. A neat stack of quilts. A less neat stack of tomes. Then, another stack beside a tall bookshelf. An open window, glass pane half-cracked. All the way to the mirror by the door. A black shroud hides most of its surface from view. Beneath it, a low shelf, its crevices crowded with more books. Many with Greek titles. Some German, Italian. One in Chinese. All about the dead. Well… all about bringing them back.

I set my mug beside a cluster of half-melted candles and reach for the shroud. Tip-toes are taken to. The stool is by the bookshelf, tucked in between the two haphazard stacks on the floor. Late night reading. It’s why I lost track of the clock. Can’t see it, here, ticking beneath the mirror, from behind a crooked tower of crooked magic.

The silky shroud slips through my fingers. A hollowed gaze, oozing a deep red, meets mine. In the mirrored glass, I watch shadows, grey in this early hour, quickly solidify into form. Torso. Legs. Arms. Neck. Head. Smile. A dainty hand–holding a decidedly less dainty cleaver–raises in a wave.

“Good morning, Mary.” I say, as the rest of Mary’s ensemble appears–a hazy, gossamer shift splattered in shades of crimson and stockings to match.

“Is it?” Mary inquires, drifting nearer. A cloying, coppery scent overpowers the heady smell of jasmine. Tea, is also added to the list. Preferably something strong. Killer, even.

“As good as any.”

Now, Mary smiles a big smile, a slash of white across her grey face. Without eyes to meet, both corners of her grin seem to end in knife points. Incisions where dimples should sit.

I fiddle with my hair. Finally meet my own dark eyes in mirrored glass. Take stock of the darker blood vessels weighing them down.

“Sleep well, Thana?” Mary appears at my side, twirling her cleaver the way I twirl my hair. Both gleam silver.

“You should know.” I shake my head. Ignore my heavier and heavier gaze. Pull my hair back, slipping the black band ’round my wrist around it. A ponytail will do.

Mary laughs from her ruddy belly and I step back from the mirror. A hand without a cleaver but with red caked under its chewed-down fingernails reaches for me before I get far. I whirl on it. They shouldn’t touch. Nana’s voice in my ears. Mary knows better. Knows my rules. The rules, Nana corrects in my head.

Mary–”

“Your feather.” She cuts me off. Hesitantly, not taking my eyes from the ones Mary lacks, I run my fingers through my tail of hair. Towards the end, brush something thin and silky. My gift.

Not turning my back on Mary again, I walk to the window, still open. Sill empty. A faint breeze unsettles the curtains. Fog creeps across the lawn outside, nearly the same gloomy shade as the stones embedded halfway in green. Nearly the same grey as Mary. A deeper hue flutters across. Then another. Crows for sure. A raven, maybe.

Deep in the fog, on the cusp of where green almost completely vanishes, devoured, a dark form too big to be mistaken for a bird. Unmoving. A living shadow. Reaper. The long staff of a scythe juts outward, its bladed head only a vague impression from this distance. But I know it’s there. Have heard the sharp swish of it, echoing across night. Off stone.

Long ago, Necromancers and Reapers came to an understanding–a compromise. Mutual interests intact. Less mutual interests honoured to a point. It keeps us peaceful. The Underworld from chaos. Oft, we live close. Territories not shared but brushing each other. It’s good to have a Reaper on hand. In our line of work. ‘Case something won’t go south, as Nana would say. Did say.

This particular Reaper’s been a little too close for comfort, though. Almost pacing the boundary where our haunts kiss these past few nights. Now lingering as day wakes.

I think about the quilt wrapped ’round my shoulders this morning. My favourite. So shiny. Finger the feather in my hair again. So soft. Corvids have coarse coats. Like armor. They like shiny things. Like to tear off trophies for themselves.

“Thana?” I look at Mary in glass, dragging my hand from my hair, my mind from its thoughts. “The time.” She motions with her cleaver to the clock. I release a curse.

Quickly, I shut the window–deal with that later–and toe on my boots. Shrug on my jacket. Pat my pockets for my keys. Glance one last time at the mirror.

“I look good?”

“As good as you get.” Mary chimes. Then, so does the clock. Again, I curse.

“Stay out of trouble.” I call over my shoulder as I throw open the door.

“If you do the same.” A breathy, almost-whisper.

Before I can pull the door shut, a gust from within does it for me. Then, brass tumblers click into place. I lower my key.

I will. I’ll try.

No time to linger, I hurry away from what looks like your typical, negligible, cemetery grounds shed. Hurry away from the fog. Away from living shadows that have some reason to be leaving peace offerings for living dead girls.

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Decided to keep writing this. Enjoy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Living Dead Girl

Past Andromeda, the Milky Way. One arm of a downward spiral–there. Over an asteroid belt. A disparaged god of the Underworld. A sea god without a sea. Another god kicked on their rotund keester. Two hot heads and their harems. Another asteroid belt. Then brothers, HorrorTerror. A god of war. There. Past one lone sentry. Through a corroding atmosphere to blue. Vivid. To green. Alive. There.

Just past the lively green. Beyond less lively, uniform rows of grey, stone and marble etched in never-words –never who they were, never all they were. Never enough. A lone home, tall and still. Don’t want to disturb the neighbors. Sneak a peek through a crack in the curtains, see only dark.

Inside, mattresses are pressed to walls. Black curtains to glass–both window and mirror. Smoke still stains the air from hastily snuffed candles. Day collapsed into night faster than expected. Damn day-light savings saving who exactly? 

Within a ring of salt, a bundle of blankets–quilts, actually. Hand-made. Patchwork. Rough around the edges but holding true. The lump stirs. A pale foot, toenails lacquered an icy, chipping blue, emerges out from under a raggedy edge. Silver threads like comet trails weave themselves in between toes. Tangled, the foot cannot retreat back beneath the safety of its quilted fortress.

A groan. Resigned. Defeated. It echoes as loudly as it can in a room with padded walls. Silvery-blonde separates itself from silvery textile. Eyes deep as the dark space between stars appear next, eyebrows above them furrowed– in frustration, yes, but, also, with the distinct slant of fear. Speckled across the rest of the face is cosmic dust, freckles that fade outward from a nose crooked gently to the left.

With haste, a ghostly pale hands reaches for the unruly threads holding the foot hostage. Tears at empty air–another groan, wearier–before locating its target. This would be easier with a light. But the candles had to go. Light attracts them. Mosquitoes too.

Frantic fingers find frayed, ruthless wardens just when it no longer matters. Clueless moonlight filters into the otherwise darkened space through that overlooked crack in the curtains. With it, a breach in the salt circle is revealed. Obviously made by a struggling limb or two.

Blood younger, the quilted bundle may have jumped to re-seal the breach. Place every pesky grain back into place. Now, though, it knows better. Knows some boundaries, like those at the end of a beloved quilt, once torn, worn, cannot be repaired. No matter how many stars are wished upon.

Should’ve learned to sew. Like Nana told me to. Warned me it’d come in handy.

Warned me.

Now, at the window, a hollowed eye-socket peers in. Breeze–that should not have penetrated solid glass– ruffles the curtains. Blows them aside. The bundle shivers. Frost pricks at the corners of eyes now the darkest things in the room.

Outside, hollow gazes. They outnumber the stones. Swallow them whole.

Swallow me.

It’s an honour, I was told. Banshee wails, still faint hums, begin to rattle glass. Rattle bone. To see, is an honour. To be what I am is a gift. From the universe.

The bundle is shed. Salt kicked aside. A candle rolls into shadow, disappears from existence until a dull thud bounces off eardrums.

Towards the window, wails become unified. One entity. An ever-present scream. Muted in the waking hours. Blood-curdling now. A crack spiderwebs across glass. It will shatter. Soon. If I allow it.

What I was never told, my hands find the battered, vibrating window’s frame, was that there is more than one universe. A necromancer is weeping inside a universe. But, a universe also weeps inside a necromancer. Never stops. You can try to shut it out.

Or–an edge found, a hard shove, splinters fly–

you can let it in~

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Stars are not surrounded by darkness. They’re surrounded by emptiness.