Tag: speculative fiction

#15 Tumbleweed

| November 22, 2011 | 0 Comments

It had gotten so that he could only vaguely remember what not being tired felt like.  He knew it wasn’t age (he was only in his twenties, after all) but every joint in his body ached.  Most likely sleeping in ditches would do that to you.  Or not sleeping at all, depending on the town he was passing through.  Truth was, it was getting so that he could only vaguely remember anything.

It had gotten so that he couldn’t tell the difference between the parts of him that were crazy from sleep deprivation and the parts of him that were just plain fucking crazy.  But he could still remember when it started.  That memory was crystal clear.  That memory burned his eyes like a sharp wind on a below freezing night.

He had kissed her.  He could remember what she felt like, small, not as soft as most girls he’d held.  She seemed so small, so delicate that he had thought she would feel fragile when he held her against him and their tongues slid soft against each other, but she didn’t.  She felt small, hard, and strong, but she kissed soft and tasted like something green and fresh.  He remembered the feel of her warm skin under his fingers.

Then she stopped.  Everything in his world stopped, and as far as he could ever explain it to himself (and never out loud), that was the moment he caught the Crazy.  It was the name he gave it, the Crazy, because it felt a lot more like a disease than some sort of mental fracture.  And it wasn’t like he fell apart completely.

He just felt this need, a burning, pushing, impossible to resist need to go.  He had no idea where it was that he needed to end up.  But he did know what direction he needed to move in.  Only, he couldn’t feel it if his feet weren’t touching the ground, so it was walk, and keep moving.  Sleep on the ground ‘cause he’d long ago ran out of enough to pay for a room.  He was living off kitchens and churches, but it was weird, because whenever he was hungry- really hungry, weak from it, food would show up.  He hadn’t even had to sort through a single trash can.

So he kept moving, and jumped at the sight of himself when he caught his reflection.  His hair stuck out matted and crazy.  And his face was covered in scraggly hair.  His clothes had lost any sense of color, even the blacks had faded to some version of brown, and what skin on his body he could still see was either weirdly tan or weirdly dirty.  He couldn’t tell.  Not like he’d had prior experience in being a bum.  He was supposed to be a market research analyst, for chissakes, not the crazy walking guy.

Funny, he remembered the title, but not the work.  Whatever he had been doing, it had not only been boring, but it had been so pointless as to leave no trace of itself in his brain.  He remembered what the smoking area looked like.  Remembered the faces of his fellow tobacco loving refugees, even if he couldn’t remember their names.

What troubled him most was that he could not remember his family aside from very vague images and uneasy feelings.  He could not figure why that should be.  And he knew that he wasn’t going to figure a damn thing out until he had slept in a bed.  Most likely for a whole week.

#14 Old Noona

| November 20, 2011 | 0 Comments

#14 Old Noona


Old Noona is as nutty as a fruitcake.  She’s one of those round little old ladies, gray hair sticking out all crazy, walking in little shuffling steps everywhere she goes.

If she can help it, she won’t walk on anything other than dirt.  Even if it means trampling through the spruce hedges in front of the bank or shuffling like a tightrope walker on the little line of dirt that collects in the crack between the curb’s edge and the sidewalk.  Grass is okay, and any other plant matter is fair game, but she hates having to walk on concrete and asphalt.  She grumbles to herself, shuffling along at her top speed every time she has to cross the street.

And she won’t set foot indoors, not even to sleep away the winter chill.  She’ll sleep next to a heating vent when it gets below freezing, and townsfolk dread the morning they might find her, not having made it through a night that got a little too cold for her old bones.  But she doesn’t seem to mind.  And lots of people look out for her.

She has the cackle of a cartoon witch, and a vocabulary as florid as it is frank, and she’ll gladly talk to anyone who’s looking interested.  Funny thing, she never talks about things you’d think the crazy street lady might talk about.  Instead, she always talks about things that the other person might find interesting, if a little unexpected.  She has this skill.  She calls herself a people person.

But a very few who stop to talk to her know a deeper truth.  When you stop, really stop to look into her eyes, you’ll see they glow with the bright passion of a child’s.  If you bring a hot cup of something with you and sit with her a minute, you might just find her talking about things you never really had the guts to say out loud but carry in your heart.  There’s only a few who could tell you why that is, why any of it is, why she is the way she is.

She made a deal, you see, once, very long ago.  She gave up houses, she gave up the world of built things, in exchange for which she got two things, the skill to sleep outdoors in any sort of weather, and the skill to grant any who would cross her path, not the wishes they would make out loud, but the quiet ones, the ones they didn’t even know they had, but needed more than any others.

#13 Bone Man

| November 19, 2011 | 0 Comments

#13 Bone Man


Bone Man, Bone Man with his box of chains, rattling along the darkest alleys in the cold and empty nights.  He shakes his wooden box, and the rattle clank and clink echo up and down the building walls.  If you hear that sound, you can’t help but shiver.  If you see the man, you can’t help but want to run.

It’s not that he’s all that scary.  Short, with a mess of jackets vests and coats hanging stiffly down his sides.  He’s got hair that sticks out like kindling held together by old bird nests.  He’s brown, but not the decent kind of brown that comes from your bloodline or the sun.  The kind of brown that’s soot and grime and grease and road dirt, soaked into the pores, into the molecules of his skin so that once you might have known where he was from but nowadays he only looks like miles of dirty road had run right over him.

If you weren’t the type to run, if you were the gambling type, the type who played games with loaded guns, you might ask him to stop.  You might reach into your pocket, find something there to give him- a button, a wrinkled up receipt, a buck or two, a knuckle bone, half a smoked cigarette, he isn’t picky.  After all, it’s your funeral.

If what you got is good enough for his mood, and he doesn’t just spit at your feet and call you something fit to make a trucker blush as he rattles on down the road, he may just stop and look you up and down.   Look real deep into your eyes.  And after hacking up something that looks like a dead baby bird, he might just drop his wooden box and sit on it.  He might just tell you a little story.

You might think yourself lucky, puff your chest a little, pay extra attention, shaking the cold, the night, the fading cheap beer buzz out of your ears.  You might really think you want to hear what he has to say.  But you never do.  Because the bone man only ever has one thing to tell you.  And before you hear it, you might think that being forewarned is some sort of a good thing, but once he says his piece, you got nothing but empty to contend with.

Because what he tells you is the precise, exact, absolutely unvarnished moment of your death.  Down to the day and the color underwear you’ll have on.  You might have thought this would be cool, to loose all that uncertainty, but once you know it’s not something you can un-know.  And you always knew you were going to die, right?  But now that you know, down to the second, just how little time you have left, well, then, the clock starts ticking down, right?

And your life might go on its way, you might be bored out of your skull or fucking your brains out, but there it is, tick tick tick, grinding down every pointless minute into that one pointless moment, that brick wall, that game over.  And see, the problem is, with that much knowing, well, it just ain’t a gamble anymore, is it?  And isn’t that what you were?  A gambling man?

See, now all you’ll ever be is dying.

No, no, you’re better off just letting the old shadow fucker walk on past.  You’re better off pretending he was never really even there.  You’re better off not even stopping to wonder what the hell it is he’s got that box of chains for.  Just get on getting on, spit at his feet for good measure, rattle the change in your pocket, and count yourself the luckiest fool that ever lived.

#2 Madrigal

| November 2, 2011 | 0 Comments

Madrigal liked to sing.  No surprise, really, since he was named after a song.  Not that he ever told anyone what his name was, much to his mom’s consternation.  But hey, it was bad enough being the son of the music teacher, let alone having to carry a name like that.  So he would tell everyone his name was Rick, his argument being that the sound was in there somewhere.

He didn’t tell many people about the singing, either, and he wasn’t really sure why, except that it was a secret special thing.  His grandma used to say it was good to have a few special secret things in your life.  And anyway, he didn’t like to sing in front of people.  He liked to sing in the woods, alone, with no one to answer to about the moments when the song went kind of… sideways.

It wasn’t like he got teased a lot in school, which he would have thought would happen, what with being one of the charity cases, or rather, a faculty member’s child.  Nobody really gave him a hard time in the small private school he went to.  It wasn’t like he was totally noticeable, either.  Brown hair, average height, average build, average personality.  Or maybe a little above average, since he did seem to get along well with just about anyone.

Madrigal had a knack for putting people at their ease.  He’d like to think that it was because he was well trained in the art of human interaction by the generations of performers that ran in his family, but a much more cynical voice was just as quick to point out that coming from a long line of gypsy con-artist grifters probably did more to influence his gift of gab than any man prancing on a stage did.

That cynical voice always sounded exactly like his uncle, and no surprise there, since his uncle was just about the only person on that side of the family he had any dealings with after his dad was shipped off to… wherever it was.  Madrigal’s guess was that his dad was in jail, but he couldn’t say for certain.  No one would say.  It was just “Shipped off,” or on a rare occasion when his mother had too much to drink, it was “Taken.”

He thought maybe it was important, the way his mom talked about his dad.  She never put him down, like some of his friends told him their divorced parents did.  And she never seemed in the least bit interested in carrying on with another man, not even after Madrigal’s uncle– the man’s own brother– let it be known that no one would hold it against her if she were to move on.  She assured him that she knew he wouldn’t ever return.  But, she would say, if she couldn’t have him she wasn’t interested in having anyone.

Madrigal swore to himself that his mother was the only person he would ever sing to until dad came home.  He’d made a lot of similar deals with himself, or god, or whoever might listen.  He knew damn well (goodness knows, enough people had told him) that his dad wasn’t coming back.  His uncle had even given him the odds on his father’s return and they were dismal enough to be unmentionable.  But he wasn’t going to let go.

Even if he was the only soul left in the universe that could remember his name, he was going to wait for his dad.  And even if it was the stupidest thing to do, he was never going to stop thinking that the man was going to walk through that door any day now.  That was who he really sang to when he was wandering through the woods.  In his secret heart of hearts, he was singing to his dad, calling him home, leading him back into their open arms.

#1 Calliope

| November 1, 2011 | 0 Comments

Calliope sat on the curb in the parking lot next to the liquor store, beer in one hand, cigarette in the other.  She had that look on her face, an intense glare aimed at the whole wide world that made people think twice about hassling her, even with her delicate five-foot-nothing frame dressed in a washed out tank top and cutoff jeans, or what she would call her dirt poor hooker look.  Anyway, people in this particular neighborhood didn’t hassle her.  And since it held the city’s highest murder rate, the cops that did spend their time around there didn’t give a single fuck about open containers, unless it looked like you were about to shove a broken one into someone’s eye.

She always scowled.  That was just her natural face, she’d tell the few people who had the guts to tease her about it.  Then she’d smile.  And no matter how well they knew her, no matter how hard they believed she had their back, every single one of them would get a little second of panic in their eyes.  It was just who she was.  She’d gotten over it a long time ago, especially when she realized that the fear-factor and all those other little quirks she had were an excellent way to get people to see things her way.

She had no idea where her crazy skills came from.  She had no wise grandma telling her about her mystical people from way back.  Didn’t even know exactly where her people came from.  She called herself an American mutt from both Americas, North and South, although one of her cousins swore there’s some Philippino blood in them somewhere.  She had no clue.  All she knew was that no one could explain why it was that she could do the things she did.  Like get people to back down with a single word.  Like kill them, if they pissed her off enough.  Not that that had happened.  Much.  And anyway, that was a long time ago.

She kept herself in check, not for herself so much as for the people who had come to count on her.  People who had no power at all, who could easily wind up dead or wishing they were, stuck like she was in what she swore must have been the asshole of creation.  But it was getting harder and harder to keep it all in check.  She was starting to think it might be high time she tried living alone for a while.  Or at least until she was sure Spike’s bring-him-to-his-knees, put-tears-in-his-eyes migraines weren’t some kind of side effect of her desire to shake some sense into the kid.

She never was sure, when people got sick around her, wether it was just a regular human biology… whatever, or whether it was just what came of getting too close to her particular variety of crazy.  She really, really hoped she didn’t make people sick.  She liked people.  She might have even said she was a people person, if it wasn’t for the fact that she was a walking talking mindfuck.