by Bob'n Around
Invisible matters of the mind turned real into the written word.
|The scurrying black dots settled in Matthew Thomas’ blurred vision. They always did when he paused like this, eyebrows knit, internal dialogue lost in thought.
He had to focus, study the matter or he would never pass the test. It was four o-clock in the morning. He was exhausted with the effort of immersing himself between the lines and into the meaning of this thumb worn, well traveled text.
This very day, soon all would be won or lost. Not just his thoughts would be derailed, his entire forthcoming career as a newly enthroned P.h.D. and professor of literature would succumb as well.
“Oral arguments. What a questionable enterprise, indeed. I have to unlock myself. I can’t hide here forever.” One fresh idea torn from this ancient history created by a past master and the prize would be his, the intellectual throne of professorship obtained.
Names, places, oddly fostered deeds danced, rioted in Matthew Thomas’ head. A mob of insurrectionists debated within his throbbing, aching, echoing skull. “Enough.” But was it?
How long he had thirst and hungered here, feasted for more, a meal never quenching his desire. Surely, his every breath was contained within these imaginary walls that held him fast. “I forsook love, for this solitary quest.” Meg Tormour flirted a brief moment in Matthew’s belabored sigh and was gone. Forever. She did not belong here in this pedantic sepulcher.
A wink of sun bore dawn to shatter the vision. Her distraction was but a jest. His nimble, well trained fingers, fluttered, flew, traced the magic pattern released to beguile his senses here, and only here.
The hour arrived. His body rose on its own to the occasion. It was an automaton, metronome steps carrying it to the scheduled appointment, soul, time traveling trailing behind, grasping at reason, unsure of mind, of self, or of destination. Would he win?
The questions twisted, tugged, pried at his innermost recesses, hunting for some unspoken truth yet to be revealed. Doubt spoke more and more blatantly from his mentor’s honored lips. For three hours the grueling continued.
Mathew knew not what he said. His lips were beyond dry, his tongue clicked against the roof of his mouth. His throat constricted. The stream of sounds emitted from him, were they music or mere noise?
Time crumbled slowly into silence. Notes were shared. Whispers traded. “I think we have heard enough. Your passion speaks for itself. It is the prize we search for. You are one of us. Come live with us in our ivory tower.”
The tumult within subsided. Mathew, looking as lost as when he entered, was guided blindly to the examination room door. His smile traced the lines binding him inside, until they became once more, mere black dots, dancing in his vision. Lost he was and ever would be within their call.
There was someone waiting in breathless anticipation, arms yearning towards him when it opened. They fell. Meg Tormour wavered back and forth, the light in her eyes flickered, went out like a dying candle. “You made it. I’m proud of you. You got what you wanted. You worked so hard,” she said from her broken heart.
|Pre-teen 628 word entry into the "Writing 4 Kids Contest"
“I got your goat.”
The kid was one that the old man had seen around, usually Halloween time, taking pumpkins from his farm’s free pile. Government paid him to grow them. He let the kids bust them up. Less work for him. “You the one broke my window?”
“Nope. That was Eddie Slinger. You still got his ball?”
It was semi dark. The old man couldn’t tell if the shadows lurking in the rustling cornfield were other whispering kids or not. October brought a cold chill wind with it disturbing enough on a night like this. The kids used his plowed up field once the ground froze over for playing shorthand baseball. He didn’t mind. Kept them from being idle, creating worse trouble. “Catch,” the old man said.
Sure enough. The kid had his glove on one hand. Caught the fast ball that seared the air that way. “Nice. You played?” Both smiled at the smack against leather.
“Broke a window or two in my time. Paid for each one doing the family errands. Learned a lot that way.” The old man’s voice had gotten distant, traveling back into the past. He shook his head wearily at the present. The farm wasn’t doing well. Residential creep. Driving up land prices.
“Here’s your goat. Chewed through the rope. Caught it butting its horns on my dog. Knew it was yours.” The kid had what looked like his dad’s belt looped around the goat’s neck, held in his free hand. “Can you teach me to throw like that?”
The initial wariness and distrust faded between them with the old man’s nod. “Do it in trade. Ever milk a goat? Juice sells high priced at that uppity new natural foods place in town.
The kid had good hands, for milking goats or for playing ball, and he liked to learn just to keep from being kid, bored. They’d trade insults while doing farm chores, fixing old things, making them last longer than buying the new stuff. Trying to get each other’s goats, as it were, without pushing it, just testing limits, comfortable in finding out where those were.
“You’re not bad for being ancient history, Mister Snyder,” the kid looked awkward, hands stuffed restless into pockets.
“I hear you moving. This your last day?” The old man didn’t look up. He stared at his rum-a-tiz swollen hard knuckles. It wasn’t going to be easy to handle the farm alone, again. He’d gotten used to the kid’s ways.
“Yep. Dad got a job up in college town. Wants me to get an education. There, when I’m old enough. This here’s Eddie Slinger.”
A shadow shaped up from behind the kid. “I got your goat. It broke loose again. Thanks for returning my ball. Maybe I could help you out some.”
The two generations stared at each other. Two kids kind of chuckling. The old man pulled out his hanky, rubbed and snorted his nose in it. The younger generation thought they knew everything. He’d showed one of them different. Gotten his goat a time or two along the way, both literally and figuratively.
The old man stood up, winced, grabbed his cane. “Goats do get loose once’t awhile. You get my goat and I’ll get your’s.”
Eddie Slinger shifted from one foot to another, not knowing if the old man were as senile as he sounded. “You do need help.” The words floated on the cold October wind.
It would be a struggle showing this Eddie Slinger. The old man hoped the kid was up for it. His mind was all fogged up with city learning. He knew it would be O.K. when the two kids jabbed each other with their elbows, relaxing into kid laughter. They’d gotten the old man’s goat without saying a word.
|Feeling jacked up
Wearing his favorite jacket
Jack felt his head in the clouds
Misty eyed, he climbed unbowed.
Each foot stalked the beanstalk
Stockings in disarray
A hands down success
His body swayed fearlessly away.
The top of the plant planted
Kept going aloft,
Rising, curling higher,
Jack thought it would never stop.
He’d promised his mother
If she didn't have a cow
Jack would find her riches,
Though he didn’t know how.
A goose goosed his rear end.
It just happened to fly by.
Jack lost his grip and yelped out a cry
He fell, gathering speed on his descend.
What treasure had Jack learned on the way,
As his life rushed before him, every moment displayed?
Stay grounded, my son, he heard his good mom say,
Which he did when he landed, six feet under to this very day.
There’s a moral to this fairy tale, one you should know.
Listen to your mother, don't go with the flow.
Holy, cow, don’t hunt for treasure and grasp at thin air,
Utterly grasp the milk of human kindness and never despair.
2nd place win, 24 line poem for the Fantasy Unraveled Contest
|Daily SCREAMS!!! contest win. (last time contest was available before going on indeterminate hiatus.)
It was a remarkable piece of art. Ned Turner’s shadow followed him around it. Wherever light winked, the glass skull winked back a prism burst of near blinding display. “How much?”
The wizened old dame pointed a gnarly finger without croaking an answer, to the script announcing hands off and the amount. “Incredible,” whispered Ned Turner. It was the exact amount in his billfold. “I’ll take it.”
The exchange took place in silence. Ned’s own skull throbbed, pulsed and sweat with fevered excitement. “A gift,” He hazarded a glance at the black zones of shadow forming the presence of the dame.
The weight of his purchase swung from its velvet bag at Ned’s side. There was further comment trembling on his lips which he swallowed, instead. Excitement stirred within him, waiting the proper moment to come out.
His steps were properly furtive for a thief rather than prized owner. His back assumed the hunchback position of the dame, eyes shifting sideways at shadows following his way, teasing with stolen advances when he turned away.
“Shadows and light. That’s what I’ve got,” Ned’s tongue tasted the words as if giving them life. His fingertips strayed against the hidden shape of the glass skull swinging with his stride. There was a gathering warmth where his touch strayed. A fire of nerve endings burst into flame if they stayed too long.
They were there waiting the moment of his measured appearance where they always were. This zone of black shadows where evil dwelled preyed upon Ned’s senses, every one. Each shadow dispersed from the other, forming their own menace. “How do they know when I carry treasure and when not?”
It did not matter. They did, had, would with a hunger demanding. As before, since the last full moon’s rising when they first arrived, there was no whisper of sound at their approach. Ned stood still.
Ned’s instinct was pure. He knew from childhood, shadows like these were best observed half formed with direct sight turning them into the fearsome monsters they were. The stench of his sweat mingled with something darker in their surrounding circle.
A low rustle as of dead scuttling leaves urged Ned for tonight’s offering into view. There was a silky touch of fur teasing the space between Ned and the claw of the leading darkness. It brought remembrance of the last stolen treasure sucked from Ned’s life placed upon this unseen altar. In a heartbeat, he felt a year of his life tugged from his rapidly beating life. Each visitation before had taken a greedy less or more.
Childhood fear knew nothing like this paranoid alien reality which could not be denied. Ned purchased the stale air he scarcely had lungs to breathe in. It was time. His heartbeats slowed into a gentle rhythm shedding the seconds of life he owned, tugged, nibbled at, light of life stolen into shadow. The trap was set.
Ned unveiled the glass skull to the fullness of moonglow. Diamonds shifted, spun, twirled, breathed their own pulsating glow into shadows void. Spears of light caught, demanding vengeance, betraying the gift for what it was, a hunger burning bright, feasting on darkness.
Ned held the glass skull for as long as he could. Fingertips became transparent, nerves vibrated, harmonized with the shrieks of shadowed pain withering from Ned’s adversaries.
“Enough. The price is paid.” Ned heard himself whisper.
The velvet cloth cloaked the glass skull, now dark as if in silent slumber, the feast of shadows imbibed. Only a monstrous glass grin remained of their ethereal substance, on the face of Ned’s head dangling at his side.
The return to the old hag was a metronome of excited steps, drumbeats matching his excited heart. No words were said when Ned entered that dwelling. The gift was returned, its unearthly deed was done. Silver was exchanged. The now darkened glass skull placed where it had slack jawed rested next to its ‘do not disturb’ sign.
Crone and Ned nodded one half seen glance at each other. How each had found the other out in their need might have been the stuff of dream or nightmare. Only the silence between them held the answer.
|Secrets are the treasure hiding in the darkness of the human mind. Can you keep one? I have one too heavy to carry alone any longer.
Don’t look so surprised. I’ve learned to cover it with a blankness of disguise complete and solid as a rock. Heavy, right?
I am afraid it will disturb that flair of interest dressing the light in your eyes. A romantic? Me? Once, perhaps. When I was a child. That child. The one huddled deep inside before I found the the secret rur-re- fright-fear-room under Dad’s desk. Sorry. I stutter when I try talking about it. The past clings to one in strange tentacles reaching into the present, doesn’t it? You know what I mean.
Kids explore. The magic of Dad’s study was off limits. The gloomy tapestry of his past life hanging on the walls in family photos, framed awards and captured moments in black and white peering back at me could not be resisted.
Fillmore Blyth was not a talker. He was a doer. This was the room wherein he practiced his trade, writing and selling horror to the darkness lurking in hearts willing to pay for it. Never heard of him? Not surprised. He hid that from his popular audience, too.
Here was revelation, secrets unveiled in a simple quick glance, one after another drawing my fascination into full display. There was my mother, before the fire, an accident. She smoked in bed, a nervous habit that made her fingers shake. Her image smiled at me with its false promises of safety, happiness and unspoiled hope fulfilled.
I was the one who found her, dragged her from her bed, my burns reddening into puss filled lesions which still scar my flesh. Dad said the burning didn’t get her. Her lungs filled with whispers of gray ghost smoke offering release from fear her cig’s never could. Love does strange things. He hated her smoking but never tried making her stop.
That was how she was, smoking hot to him, a smoking dead lifeless candle to me, a tumble of gray tumbling clouded images storming in my young mind.
You will find me there, hanging on the wall, hiding half behind my dead brothers. Car accident. Dad swerved to keep from hitting a dog. Hit a tree instead. I was too little for my seat belt. I flew out an open window, landed in the branches, caught there, swinging in the wind’s hushed lullabye. Dad survived the airbag’s punch in his face. My brother’s laughter, teasing, bruising pinches, seeing how much I could take, stopped then and there.
The awards on the walls, never with Dad’s own name. The money was his if not the fame. He liked his privacy, his secrets. He knew how to keep them locked up. Yes, he did, until I found them in the room under his desk.
Mom’s urn. My brothers bone dust, not so fancy, embalmed in simple steel canisters that unscrewed. Their last captured air blooming into one, two clouds I breathed in. They tasted stale, old memories no longer alive, buried almost beyond recall.
I wasn’t supposed to be there. I wasn’t supposed to be anywhere. I was too much a living memory in Dad’s mind where the horror wrote itself into published, best selling books where I didn’t belong.
I heard his footsteps above me. The sigh of him settling into his old roller wooden office chair. The click of his gun, the spin of its cylinders. I learned later it was a game, Russian Roulette. How many times he played it before he won, is a secret.
I didn’t have to drag him, like I did my mom. Dad slid down off his chair, down the steep steps, his suit coat pulling up over his head kept the blood and gore, soaking it up as he came to greet me. He was always a tidy man, liked to clean up after himself. The will showed he had done it again.
I came to live with you, grandmom, when Dad disappeared those years ago, his secret safe with me, where he had gone. How he had gotten there. He could no longer live with himself.
I know how he felt. You taught me, blamed me for his leaving, until it seared like fire burning into my young soul. The will could not be enforced. My revenge for the rage inflected beatings triggered by the sight of me, looking so much like a younger version of Dad.
Secrets. Family secrets. You made do, finding his unpublished manuscripts, publishing them under his assumed names. Keeping him alive, at least to others, long after his time. We moved into his house. I crawled down to visit him when I could in that dry dark heat, candle lit shrine to old memories.
You are welcome. I left the trap door open by accident. That accident you found when you came in hearing my stammered sobs bleating up at you after my last beating.
I didn’t make you fall, bounce your way down, down, dah dah down. Your broken neck twisting your head, eyes taking it all in. This was meant to be your final resting place. A gift from Dad, Mom, my brothers, and me, rocking, hunched over, staring at you staring at me.
Now you know my secret. I feel better, it ending this way. The candle is dying. The cloudy gloom grows closer. I’ll leave you with your fear, I see shrieking from your weeping eyes.
I have a new secret. I’ve just published a new novel, in one of Dad’s anonymous names. The money will go to that account. I have Dad’s I.D. A future as an unknown writer awaits my future, whatever else it may be.
Don’t worry. I’ll come down and check on you. It’s been seven years since Dad’s will bequeathed me his house and all his belongings. I’ll talk to you later. I have a meeting with the lawyer.
Thanks for listening. I feel better, sharing the family secrets. It is nice having you listening with open ears, for once.
|500 word entry into the SCREAMS!!! contest. Prompt: Broken Selves
“Dude in room eleven thinks he’s God.” Nurse Shelly Evens pointed to the illegal dose of tranquilizers. “Perhaps he is. This amount would kill any other man.”
Alice Newsome, newby on the block, licked her lips. She’d made a mint selling patient drugs on her last job. This setup looked promising. “He that crazy? Who’d he kill?”
“Killed any chance of getting out. Political thing. Caught broadcasting out on street corners with calls for our corrupt politicians to repent. His signs made their secrets public. Can’t disturb the status quo power structure now can we?” Nurse Evens winked. “I get paid under the table to find out where he got the information. You will, too, when I move on up. A little blackmail ought to do the trick. Are you in?”
No-one believed in God in this hell on earth. If there was a God, why did he let the pure evil the world had become happen? Surely he wasn’t hiding out in an insane asylum. As if reading the new nurse’s thoughts, Evens hissed, “He says free will. We abandoned him, not he, us. God dropped in to see what to do about the situation. The Devil was complaining things have gotten out of control. Come on. I’ll introduce you.”
The man in room eleven had gotten out of his straitjacket again. “Tricky devil,” Nurse Even’s pulled the cattle prod used to subdue out of control crazies from an inside pocket. “Drink this, God. I made it especially for you.”
“Why do you try persecuting me, daughter?” God took the bitter cup and swallowed. His face turned beet red. He shuddered and coughed before returning back to normal. “The devil just left. Says he’s had enough. Want’s nothing to do with any of you. Thinks your souls are not worth taking. They act worse than the demons he’s got. Hell is starting to get religion and its hordes are repenting, praying to me for relief. Who would have thought?”
Both nurses laughed. “God’s got a sense of humor, I’ll give him that,” Nurse Newsome dug an elbow into God’s ribs as she manhandled him back into his straitjacket.
“Why not let us get it back into shape?” Nurse Evens simpered, goading God on.
“Yeah, if the Devil can’t do the job, I’m sure we can,” Nurse Newsome winked.
God looked thoughtful. “It is an idea. There’s no room in Heaven for them. Besides, Satan’s hordes are only behaving under pressure. Sad. They are under a binding contract of serving only one master. Don’t have the skill set to work for me.”
In the wink of an eye (Nurse Newsome’s), The two were transported to the most fiery pit of Hell to take over the reigns of ruling that dominion as God’s unlikely angels of doom, with Satan as their whipping boy.
The world was allowed to spin out of control with climate change, plagues and mankind’s evil nature reducing the planet to a lifeless spinning ball of polluted muck.
|“What’s so scary about that?” Emily’s curiosity peaked. The ring in the small black satin covered box was inscribed in its inner band with ‘The ring of doom.’ “It certainly costs a lot.”
“One of a kind, madam.” The owner of the unique jewelry shop pointed to the sign above the glass case. “Ask before trying anything on or you buy it,” the weasley looking guy said. He stopped fingering Emily’s diamond wedding ring she’d come in to hock and raised a questioning eyebrow.
“Yes?” Emily waited, wondering at the cunning look in the man’s eyes. All she wanted was out of her dead marriage she was fleeing. The money from her ring would buy as much distance as she could get.
Mark was the most jealous, possessive, controlling freak she had ever met. She could feel him looking over her shoulder, hand ready to pinch a twitching nerve even though she knew he wasn’t there. It made her flinch. “Just looking,” she said.
“It came in off a dead man’s hand, sweetheart. I sold it to his wife the day before he died. She brought it in on his severed finger, paid me twice for the going price.” The wicked smile on the owner’s lips was thin and tightly drawn. “Said it had worked like a charm and charmed it is. Want to see the finger?”
Emily felt her stomach muscles tighten in disgust. She’d had more than enough hurt and pain of her own to want to see anyone else’s. “No thanks. How much for my diamond ring?” How many times had she attempted to flee only to have Mark or one of his cop friends stop her in her tracks. This was the first and only chance she’d had in months.
“You remind me of her. The sweat on your pasty face looks the same. Why haggle? Trade you straight across for the one in your hand.” The weasel snickered, sharp pointed teeth emerged in his smile.
“I don’t believe in charms,” Emily took a deep breath, gasped as the familiar shape of her husband appeared in front of the jewelry store window. He had found her. Sure as death she’d get the beating of her life when he got her back home.
Out of desperation she squeezed her eyes shut, flicked her tongue across dry lips and cried out, “It’s a deal.”
Emily felt a steady resolve wash through her trembling frame. She’d test the ring’s power by wearing it herself. She’d rather be dead than spend another day with Mark. He kept anything sharp or worth using as a weapon away from her at home because of previous tries. “Hello, Mark,” she half cried.
“What are you doing here?” Mark filled the open shop doorway. His temper already boiling up near out of control. “I can’t leave you alone for one minute without you trying something."
Her eyes flicked towards her wedding ring. It had magically disappeared from view under the weasel’s hand. “Help you sir? The young lady just purchased a remarkable find for her husband.”
Mark stopped in surprise. “A present? For me? I don’t believe it.”
The weasel chuckled. The sound purred under his breath like a wild beast. “Said she wanted to make it up to you for all the wrongs of the past. Make a new beginning. You are her man?”
“I don’t believe it. Show me the palm of your hand, Emily. You are hiding something I bet you came in to sell your wedding ring.” He stepped towards her, shoulders shifting, muscles bunching, ready to grab, shake, twist and force her.
Emily’s hand shivered. It opened. The doom ring rolled to the floor, bounced and spun, landing at Mark’s feet. The high grade silver and quirky design flashed the sun in Mark’s surprised eyes. “Where did you get the money?”
“Beautiful isn’t it? Quite expensive. She said she had to sell her soul to afford it and her body to strangers to like me. Quite the offer. She’s a tasty piece of meat.” The weasel smacked his lips, seemingly unaware of the challenge in the hot tempered husband’s demeanor.
“You slut. I’ll put you out on the street.” Mark leaned down, swiped the doom ring into his giant paw of a hand and slipped it on his wedding finger. He’d long ago stopped wearing his wedding ring. “You’re mine until death do us part.”
The weasel nodded approvingly. He and Emily exchanged one single glance. “Deal done.” He pronounced, bouncing her diamond ring up and down before Mark’s startled, confused look in his eyes.
“What’s going on? I don’t understand.” He choked on his words, coughed and rose on his toes. His face reddened into deep purple as he gasped for air. “I can’t breathe.” His hand with the doom ring on it went to his throat.
The weasel smirked at Emily. “I’ll be your witness. You didn’t touch him. Must be dying of a sudden heart attack. Pity, isn’t it. Perfect marriage and all that.”
Emily was allowed to get the doom ring back along with Mark’s finger, before the funeral. The mortuary had been willing to cut it off, it wouldn’t come off any other way, for a small price for the bereaved, as a keepsake. Mark had given Emily the finger one last time.
The first moment she was free after the burial, Emily was back at the jewelry store. “Thank you, for whatever you did. I brought the ring back. I’m done with it. You collect their fingers, don’t you?”
The weasel gave one short nod, flashing his wicked teeth in a snarled grin. “And their souls. You get to keep your own. It was good doing business with you. I don’t think we will meet again, but you know where I am if you are needed. Women like you tend to make poor choices in their men.”
The thought haunted Emily enough thereafter to turn her into an active lesbian. She did not live happily ever after. Few humans ever do. Neither did she regret leaving her past behind, which is better than most of us do.