Friday, September 30, 2016

Something Shiny



Kagami feared looking in mirrors. A woman always waited beside her reflection, wanting to drag her in. She didn't know why, just that it could happen.
But one day, Kagami was careless with a spoon. Polishing it, looking at its shiny surface, she was dragged. Beside her, in an otherwise empty world, the woman stood.
Kagami, trembling, asked, "What do you want?"
The woman pointed to the corner of her mouth, then at Kagami's. "Your lipstick has smeared."
Kagami whipped the smudge and was pushed, falling back into her own world, where she took care to look in the mirror.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Eye on Target



The king requested a horse from the Highlands, some big, beautiful thing with midnight mane and spider-long legs. Its most recognizable feature: a blue third eye adorning its forehead, said to grant whoever possessed it with the ability to deceive. A muscled man was first hired for the horse’s retrieval, but though his body was strong, his mind had been possessed by fear. Second, a young boy was tried, but he was so cocky he came back with nothing but a long yarn, exaggerated with wild boars and woodland witches.
Finally, Isis was hired, a last resort though she was the best shot in her land. She shrugged off the king’s bias, used to waiting her turn. After all, her stomach was looking forward to this hunt. The king requested the horse dead or alive and since he wanted its jewel, she didn’t think he’d mind it missing a leg or two.
The forest was a beast all its own. Thorns nagged her. Cold bit her. Still, she journeyed on. She watched for hoof prints in the snow. She saw none and still knew she was closing in. Animal’s heartbeats made the most noise, she’d always say to other hunters whether they’d heed her sweet voice or not. You want to be a good tracker, don’t see and don’t hear, feel the pulse.
Still, it was hard for Isis to feel the pulse over the screaming pain of her bones gone stiff. Some didn’t know bones could freeze, but Isis knew better. You get numb, stiff. Then you shatter. Isis’s mom told that bedtime story all too often, her attempt at deterring Isis’s hunting ambition while trying to pump it into her brother’s veins. Of course, it hadn’t worked. Isis was born a predator. Her brother still had the tendency to cower at a puppy’s growl.
Any second now, any second . . . Her eyes scanned the shadows. Hiding was what common beasts did, not the majestic, but why take chances? So absorbed in her tracking, Isis narrowly missed sinking her foot in a ditch. A sprained ankle would be a deterrent she couldn’t afford. She cursed herself in silence. Mistakes like this were below her. It was the monster called Hunger in her stomach, pushing her to extremes, begging her to get going and going quick.
Soon, Isis halted.
There it was, nibbling the bony fingers of a tree: her target. Isis readied her rifle. Another creature unseen broke a twig with a thunderclap. The horse snapped its head up, alert. Isis had only a second before it fled. She shot and struck true through its third eye.
She returned her rifle to its halter and got busy preparing the horse for its delivery. Too heavy to carry, she tied a long sheet over and under the animal’s bulk and fastened the ends of the sheet to herself. With it secure, she began her trek.
Right away she realized that dragging the horse felt too easy. An equine of such mass should weigh like a cannonball on her lower back. She looked back and knew she had been deceived by illusion for she now saw a regular, piteous animal, bleeding a rotten stench that crinkled her nose and murdered her appetite, a stink that couldn’t possibly be exuded from something she’d toppled not an hour ago. She knew she’d fallen victim to deception, blinded by illusion cast on a moving deer corpse. The cocky young boy who’d attempted the mystic deer’s capture before her had mentioned such things in his fable, but she’d assumed it was all myth. It puzzled and shook her, but got her heart throbbing with desire too. Imagine a foe as wise as her, a prey with a predator’s drive. She would have continued the hunt if she could see a point in it, but she couldn’t. Night was falling harder and one gunshot was all any creature would permit before taking cover. With her rations dwindling and days of journey ahead of her, it was wiser to go home and plan a return. Reequipped, rested, and renewed with ambition, she would get another chance.
Isis considered untying the sheet and leaving her fly-bothered catch then thought better of it. She hadn’t fetched the target, but the rotten deer had proven two things: she’d come close and she was still the best shot in her land.
Through the trees the horse with its third eye showed all its teeth in a gleeful whinny, watching Isis leave.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Snowflakes and Sugar Plums



Pillow stuffed with snowflakes, Paige dozed. These weren’t the snowflakes of legend that succumbed to heat and time. These were the snowflakes of the Pole and they never lost their cool. Because they were always cold, they were perfect companions for Christmas Eve, the night one froze the sugar plums in their dreams.
Paige had a large collection of sugar plums, but thirsted for one in particular. In her dreams she sees her mother, father, parents of long past. She lives alone now, in an igloo, lucky her skin is resilient as the snowflakes, numb. If she can freeze that sugar plum, that memory too old to remember, she has a chance to have her parents.
She stumbles through lanes of giant candy canes, avoids cloven hoofs raining down, presses her palms to her ears over the bellow of partridges and turtle doves, until she finds them. They wear red fur rimmed in white. Her father smiles wide, his cheeks flush, his belly bouncing. Her mother stands with the sweet aroma of cookies wafting from her. In her dream, Paige pinches her eyes shut, attempting to freeze the moment. When she opens her eyes, her parents are gone.
Again, she opens her eyes, this time in the real world. She gasps. Her snowflakes have vanished. In their place rests a candle magically lit so it can’t burn, only warms her hands. Through moan of wind and snow, she hears the jingles that find her once a year.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Static



A hiss interrupted Janice’s Christmas tunes, always. Not the usual radio static, no. She heard it over the mall intercom while watching shoppers stumble with gift bags weighing down one arm, a screaming toddler hanging off the other, men browsing women’s clothing stores here and jewelry shops there, all with the same baffled look on their faces. She heard it when she tried plugging her ears with headphones. She heard the noise then too, coating the holly, jolly music streaming in, noise like a slow unending sigh streaming from her iPod. She yanked out her plugs. People passed on by. Everyone was so oblivious, and none of them heard the hiss masked with holiday cheer.
Why should she hear it, Janice with her unadorned apartment, parents MIA, and nonexistent love life? Janice bought one lonely Christmas present for herself and placed it under her naked tree. She couldn’t wait to open it. She had been searching the mall for the perfect set. Finally, she’d come home with one, provided by one of the men in the jewelry store. They’d been a chore to wrap, the hue of the wrapping paper going from white to pink to red in a minute’s span. Still, they were wonderful ears.
Perhaps, when she put them on, the noise would go away.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Ornament Too Many




“Tree’s a bit cluttered this year,” Xen tells his wife. He flips through his newspaper, casting glances at the tree, watching his wife bustle with ornament after ornament atop a ladder. The tree spans a good ten feet, its tip tapping the ceiling. The ornament’s rainbow d├ęcor blots out the tree’s natural green, weighing down its limbs like oversized dewdrops.
“What do you suggest, dear?” Xen’s wife sweeps her hair from her eyes, searching a place for a bulbous red globe in her hands. “Most of these have been in our family for years.”
“New ones are crafted every day.” Xen shifted his reading glasses. “I say, ‘out with old, in with new.’ Snuff out the ones going on a few billion in age, dear.”
“Oh, I don’t know,” Xen’s wife moans. Xen watches her fumble, unhanding the ladder. The red sphere still in her hand, she brushes over a couple blue ones, shifts one with lollipop-bright rings, another with a perfect red spot. “They are old, indeed. But they add something to the atmosphere, I think. Like this one here— Opps, oh my!”
An ornament leaps with the branches, sails down, down, to shatter on the floor. Shards of blue dotted brown and blue disrupt the tile.
Xen sighs as his eyes return to his paper. “Don’t worry, dear,” he says with a dismissive wave of his purple hand. “That one was getting dull anyway.”