December 31, 2014

Happy New Year, everyone!

And now, the thrilling conclusion to yesterday’s tale. Here’s a link to the first portion, in case you missed it:

https://litforlunch.wordpress.com/2014/12/30/december-30-2014/

Squeaker, for all of his absentmindedness, had been quite precise. And it was after a satisfying meal of moths and mosquitoes, that Mortimer found himself stationed on an abandoned bit of castle wall, suspiciously devoid of guards, in the precise place the would-be kidnappers were to emerge with the poor princess.

Somewhere in a distant tower, he heard a clock chime midnight. Perhaps Squeaker had been wrong, he thought – or hoped, at least. Perhaps there was no kidnapping. Perhaps all was well. Perhaps, at that very moment, the princess was sleeping soundly in her own bed.

Perhaps, Mortimer thought, he was being foolish for even waiting, for thinking that he could do something. All on the word of a mouse.

Perhaps Squeaker was playing a trick on him?

No.

Squeaker wouldn’t. And he could sense the sincerity in his little mouse voice when he’d asked for help. If there was a prank being pulled, Squeaker wasn’t in on it.

Mortimer felt restless. Experimentally, he flapped his wings a few times, allowing himself to rise a few inches off of the stone surface.

Maybe this was a waste of time. He hoped it was a waste of time.

When he finally heard noises below, it surprised him. The low grinding of stone-on-stone made him jump and squeak in a most undignified way, but the men below didn’t seem to notice.

It appeared that Squeaker had, in fact, been correct. Mortimer glared sightless at the ground below him and let out a loud, purposeful cry. Momentarily, it came back to him, confirming his suspicions.

Two men. One holding a lantern. The other leading the blindfolded and gagged Princess.

Another squeak confirmed what he wanted to know – her hands were bound but her feet were free. It seemed the villains had not wanted to carry her for such a distance.

‘Lazy, as well as wicked, then,’ Mortimer remarked to himself.

The situation, admittedly, was not great.

He would, for example, have felt better if he had a sword. Not, mind you, that he could lift a sword. Or that he knew what to do with one. But having one would have made him feel better regardless. Because, reader, when you a rather small bat up against two large and unknown men, it is easy to feel powerless.

But Mortimer knew he was not quite powerless. And he had promised to help. So he would do what he could.

Mortimer took stock of the situation, took a deep breath and swooped.

Bats are not, as a general rule, particularly dangerous creatures, reader. But they can be when they want to be. Mortimer’s first move was to let out a loud, screeching cry. He smiled a tiny, batty smile as he saw the two men pause in their steps.

“It’s just a bat,” he heard the front man say to the other.

Oh. If only it were just a bat.

With a second swoop, Mortimer targeted the lantern-holder’s face, small claws out and ready to scratch. He did not, as he had wished, manage to scratch the target’s eyes, but, reader, a bat scratching you in the face is sufficiently distracting and within a second, Mortimer heard what he wanted to hear – the lantern dropping and dowsing in the grass as the man used both hands to grab at his face.

Easy prey without a light, he thought.

Yet another swoop. This time he came dangerously close to the target, claws raking across the second man’s face – he could feel blood seeping in the wake of his claws. A satisfied smile lit his batty face as he heard the man cry out, clutching at his face, struggling to get blood out of his eyes.

“Run, Princess!” he squeaked, as loudly as he could. “Run as fast as you can!”

Of course, humans don’t understand bat language, but somehow, in spite of this, the Princess seemed to have gotten the message.

She ran, using her bound hands to pull down the clumsily-tied blindfold and yank the gag from her mouth. Screaming her head off in a most un-princess-like manner, she ran for the nearest guard post, as her less-than-stellar kidnappers continued to wipe the blood from their eyes.

Mortimer perched on the castle wall, watching. It was only when the Princess returned with a group of guards, blades-and-torches drawn, that he allowed himself to relax.

Adventure and excitement are all very well, reader, but only when they end well. And, luckily, this one did.

Mortimer left the scene, confident that all was well.

He snatched a few more particularly tasty moths and returned to his perch, high up in the highest castle tower, well before sunrise. He hung upside down, comfortably wrapped in the warmth of his own wings, as was his wont.

And he was more than halfway asleep, snuggled safe and warm, when a squeaky little mousey voice came from the beam above him.

“Thank you,” it said simply.

“You’re welcome,” he replied, sleepily. “Now go away.”

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December 30, 2014

“Mortimer!”

“Psssst.”

“Mortimer! Wake up!”

The squeaky voice in the darkness was doing little to persuade Mortimer into consciousness.

“No,” Mortimer murmured sleepily, wrapping his wings tighter around himself and trying to cling to the last few moments of sleep allowed to him.

He could feel the hovering darkness, like a warm blanket, and knew it was nearly time to rise, but he did not want to. Just a few more moments….

“Mortimer! Wake up!”

“Leave me alone, Squeaker.”

But Squeaker was more persistent this night than most.

“Wake up, Mortimer!”

He nudged the bat’s feet frantically, almost knocking him from his daytime perch.

“I need your help, Cousin!”

With a heavy, reluctant sigh, Mortimer finally deigned to respond.

“For the last time, Squeaker,” he said. “We are not cousins. We are not related. I am not a rodent.”

He drew the last word out distastefully, rolling the rrrrr in rodent, as if to prove he was of a greater class than the mouse.

“You’re a bat,” Squeaker replied, wrinkling his whiskers in thought. “I’m a mouse. Which is like a rat. Which sounds like bat. Close enough.”

Mortimer heaved a great, heavy sigh, finally stirring himself out of his sleep, shaking out his wings and coming to rest on top of the beam next to the mouse.

“What do you want, Squeaker?” he asked, knowing full-well that this was important.

The mouse, he knew, would not have come up to the highest wooden beam of the highest tower in the castle, were it not important. Even now the little creature was shaking…. He tried not to own up to it, but Mortimer knew that Squeaker had a fear of heights.

“What I want….. Well… it isn’t for me, exactly.”

The mouse sat up on his hind legs and rubbed his paws together, apologetically.

“Well, then, who’s it for?” Mortimer asked, this time a bit more gently.

“It’s for the princess,” Squeaker whispered.

“The Princess?” Mortimer asked. “What have you or I to do with the Princess?”

Squeaker looked directly up at his larger friend and said the very-important-thing that he had come to say – the thing that had been worth scurrying up all of those stairs and across endless scary high beams.

“You have to save the Princess,” he said.

“I what?” Mortimer scoffed. “I have to do no such thing. What business is she of mine?”

Under his mousey whiskers, Squeaker blushed. He had, you know, always had rather an intense fondness for the Princess. Her gowns always swished softly when she walked. And she never purposely hurt another creature – not even when the maid had discovered a mouse in the royal chambers. The creature was simply relocated to another location – the royal chambers being no proper place for a mouse.

Squeaker took a deep breath and he began to explain. He explained how he’d been meandering at the foot of the castle walls, looking for any stray bits of food, and perhaps a bit of fresh air, when he’d heard voices.

Specifically, reader, Squeaker had heard a plot. A plan to kidnap the princess. The plan was to creep through secret passageways inside the castle walls – passages unbeknownst to the guards – to enter into the royal bedchambers under the cover of night, that very evening, to sneak her out of the castle and to hold the poor dear for ransom.

And Squeaker wasn’t having any of it. No one was going to hurt his princess. Not if he could help it.

So he reiterated.

“You have to save the Princess!”

“Squeaker,” Mortimer replied quietly, having given this some thought. “I’m just a bat. What am I supposed to do about it?”

“Well, I’m a mouse,” Squeaker replied. “And there’s nothing I can do about it. And you’re a bat. Surely there must be something you can do? I mean, you can fly.”

Flight, to Squeaker, was the ultimate power. He felt he could achieve nearly anything, given the powers of flight.

“Yes,” said Mortimer. “I can fly. That doesn’t help much in this situation.”

“Besides,” Mortimer added. “What makes you think I have any interest at all in saving the Princess? Maybe I don’t care if she’s kidnapped.”

“But you do care,” Squeaker replied. And he was right. Everyone cared. She was, after all, a very kind Princess.

“All right,” Mortimer confessed. “Fine. I care. But what am I supposed to do?”

Squeaker did not have an answer. But he was still confident.

“You’ll figure something out,” he said.

And so it was, armed with knowledge and not a little bit of fear, that Mortimer set out for his night’s journey.

To be continued….

Prompt (mildly nonsensical): A cynical bat must aid the castle and finds the world.

Prompt courtesy of:

http://www.springhole.net/writing_roleplaying_randomators/plototron_tradfantasy.htm

Image courtesy of:

http://www.morguefile.com/

December 29, 2014

Hi guys,

This is the last one, the tale end to last week’s story. In case you missed the first and second parts of the story, they are located here:

Part One:

https://litforlunch.wordpress.com/2014/12/22/december-22-2014/

Part Two:

https://litforlunch.wordpress.com/2014/12/26/december-26-2014/

And finally, Part Three:

He signed his name with minimal flourish, although Simon isn’t really a flourish-y kind of name. Not like Michelangelo or Armand or Vincent. No. Simon was just Simon. And generally speaking, he was ok with that, even if his name did look a bit small on the page.

With another heavy sigh, he folded up the piece of paper and tucked it into an envelope, even sealing the envelope for good measure.

There, he thought. That’s done.

Now came the hard part. Now he had to deliver it.

Simon took a deep breath and with a great effort, he heaved himself out of his chair. Slowly, he shuffled toward the door. He slipped on his shoes and just stood there.

He closed his eyes and rested his hand on the door knob. The letter felt like it was burning up in the palm of his other hand. Funny, he thought, how something so small and seemingly simple could feel so significant. It was, after all, just paper.

He looked down at his hand, which was gripping the door knob tightly, as though it never wanted to let go.

Could he do this? Could he just walk down the hall and slip a letter under someone’s door? Like it was totally normal?

Was it totally normal?

Simon wasn’t sure. He wasn’t exactly an expert on normal.

It didn’t matter if it was normal, he decided. He had to do it either way. So he wouldn’t waste his time worrying about normal.

Simon forced his hand to shift, twisting the knob and opening the door.

He walked slowly down the hallway, setting each foot quietly in front of the other. He stared at the carpeting as he walked, keeping his gaze on it as though he was suspicious – as if at any moment, the carpet might rear up from beneath his feet and bite him.

You can never really trust carpet, you know.

It used to be his hallway, he thought. The hallway he walked down every single day, to and from work, and when he went to take out the garbage. And on the rare few occasions when he went out to dinner. It was always his hall – whether he was walking in it or not.

Now it was no longer his hall – or at least not completely his. Because now it was hers too. And it wasn’t that other people hadn’t walked along that hall before – a dozen other people lived on this floor, down this hallway. But he had never really felt them – or thought about them.

But now the hall felt different. He remembered the cadence of her quiet footsteps, and the precise jingle of her keys. There was some lingering, faint scent of perfume in the air that made the hall not quite his anymore.

And on some level, he knew it would never really be his again.

It wasn’t very far between his apartment and hers – maybe twenty feet or so between the doors. But it felt like crossing an ocean.

Finally, he reached her front door. Deep breath. Almost there. Simon knelt down. He’d managed to slide the letter halfway under the door when suddenly the door wasn’t there anymore. And the hallway was flooded with light.

He found himself looking at a pair of slipper-clad feet. Fuzzy blue slippers. They actually looked quite comfortable. Perhaps he should invest in pair. Why hadn’t he thought of fuzzy slippers before? Maybe he just wasn’t a fuzzy slipper kind of person.

Simon was smart enough to know when his mind was babbling at him and was also smart enough to be grateful that his mouth wasn’t spewing out all of his random thoughts at a million miles a minute.

His eyes followed the slippered feet up to pajama-ed legs and he began to turn bright red when he finally met her eyes.

“Hello there,” she said. “I thought I heard something out here…. I’m glad I decided to check it out.”

She was glad? That was good, wasn’t it? Simon wasn’t sure.

“Hi,” he said. “I – I’m your neighbor.”

Her smile widened.

“I’m glad to meet you,” she said. “You know, for the longest time, I thought that place was empty? You’re so quiet. But I kept seeing light under the door, so I knew there must be someone there. And now you’ve solved the mystery for me. I’m pleased to meet you.”

She stuck out her hand to shake. Gingerly, he took it.

“I’m Christina,” she said.

“I’m ….. Simon,” he said.

For a few seconds there, he could swear he’d forgotten his own name.

“Whatcha got there?” she asked, nodding at the envelope in his hand.

He looked down, too, almost surprised to find the letter there. It felt like he’d written ages ago. He half expected that he would open up the envelope to find the paper crumbled into the dust.

“This,” he said. “This is – I just – you see…”

She just smiled, waiting for his words to fall out of his mouth in the right order.

“I hadn’t wanted to disturb you,” he said, finally. “So I thought I’d just write you a letter and slip it under your door.”

“You don’t have to do that,” she said. “I love meeting my neighbors – you’re welcome to come over any time. Well, as long as I’m here, of course.”

He felt as though a weight had dropped off of his shoulders.

“Now let’s see what you’ve got here,” she said, snatching the envelope out of his hand.

Reaction time was not exactly Simon’s strong suit. He did, however, manage to clench his hand tightly just the instant after she grabbed the envelope. Not that it helped in the least in the present situation. But he would have done fabulously well in a grip test, had one been present just then.

She opened it and read it in an instant. He steeled himself against her reaction.

“My music bothers you?” she asked.

He nodded meekly. And he was surprised when her smile returned in full force.

“You should’ve just said something,” she said. “I didn’t mean to disturb anybody.”

She shook her head.

“Poor thing,” she said. “I’ve been keeping you up nights and I didn’t even know it. I’ll find some way to make it up to you.”

Simon wasn’t expecting it when she grabbed his hand and pulled him into her apartment. Then again, Simon didn’t expect a lot of things. And at least this one was pleasant.

Within the course of a few minutes, Simon found himself seated at her kitchen table, nursing a mug of hot tea with an accompanying cookie. She’d made the cookies herself. This was not terribly surprising. She did, after all, seem like the kind of girl who would bake her own cookies.

Simon wasn’t expecting it when she grabbed his hand and pulled him into her apartment. Then again, Simon didn’t expect a lot of things. And at least this one was pleasant.

Within the course of a few minutes, Simon found himself seated at her kitchen table, nursing a mug of hot tea with an accompanying cookie. She’d made the cookies herself. This was not terribly surprising. She did, after all, seem like the kind of girl who would bake her own cookies.

What surprised Simon was not the cookies, or the tea, or her cheerful lemon-and-white kitchen. No, what surprised him was how at home he felt in a place that was not his home, with someone he’d never met before.

Simon was not fond of change. In fact, he hated it. No. He more than hated it. He was scared of it.

Change had never been kind to him. Like when his favorite laundry detergent had changed its scent. And now it reminded him of the scent of frozen peas. He’d had to switch, permanently, to his second favorite laundry detergent, which wasn’t half bad, but not nearly as good as the first. Or when his library had changed their policy – now allowing only four books out at a time instead of six. He’d had to change his schedule completely because of that – now he went once a week, instead of once every two.

He looked at her as she buzzed around the kitchen.

Sugar for his tea?

No thanks.

More cookies?

No, he was good, thanks.

She was definitely change. And she was not small change. She was not laundry detergent or library books. She was not toll booth fees or the sweetener in his latte. No – she was big change. Flesh-and-blood change, alive and buzzing and singing only a few feet from him.

And for the first time in his life, change felt good. Being in her presence – it felt right. He was not one to quibble over terminology, but for whatever reason, being around Christina… Oh all right, he would admit it.

It felt like coming home.

And suddenly he didn’t mind the music anymore.

Home wasn’t the apartment next door, with the meticulously made bed and the bowls arranged in the cabinets, stacked neatly by size and color. Not the neatly stacked alphabetized book cases, or the remotes sitting neatly in a row on the clean, dust-free coffee table.

Suddenly that place felt almost foreign – and completely devoid. Of air. Of life. Of color. Of sunshine. Of chaos.

He must’ve had an odd look on his face.

“Are you all right?” she asked.

“I’m just fine,” he said, smiling up at her. “How was your day?”

Simon had always prided himself on a well-ordered life. Now he felt pieces of his neat, well-ordered life crumbling away.

And he had the feeling that it was going to be wonderful.

December 26, 2014

Continued from December 22, 2014. In case you guys missed that post, here’s the link:

https://litforlunch.wordpress.com/2014/12/22/december-22-2014/

Enjoy!

He awoke the next morning to golden silence.

Ok, so perhaps it wasn’t golden exactly, but it was a lot more golden than the noise last night had been and he relished it accordingly.

Sometimes, she sang in the shower. He could hear her, even through the wall, if he happened to be home at the time. She didn’t shower regularly – well, he supposed she did. It wasn’t that she was dirty, or anything, but rather that she did not seem to have apportioned a specific time each day to showering. Thus, he was not always subjected to her singing. He should be grateful for her erratic schedule.

Instead he was just alarmed, feeling as though the wall could burst into song at any moment and there was nothing he could do about it.

Simon pulled himself out of bed and threw himself into the shower. He brushed his teeth in silence, dressed in silence and walked out the door in blissful silence.

This was, he thought, how things were supposed to be.

He did not listen to the radio in the car. He sometimes listened to classical music at work – through a pair of headphones, so as not to disturb anyone, but he chose not to today.

Today, he valued the silence.

He turned on the radio for just a second on the way home. He was not sure why he did this. He touched the on-button in the same way a child touches the metal of a hot stove – after he has already been burnt. As though he is wondering if the thing could possibly still be as hot as it was the first time.

Indeed, it is.

Still as loud. Still as tinny and raucous. He only caught a few seconds-worth of music – perhaps ten seconds in all. But he was surprised that he recognized the song. It was one she had been singing a few nights ago. Something about roaring.

He would have found it quite funny, if he hadn’t been trying to read at the time.

Who was he kidding?

He hadn’t been reading. The book had long since been put away, like the sham it was. He wasn’t reading anymore – hadn’t been for a few nights now. He was just listening. And he knew he shouldn’t be.

This would, he decided firmly, have to come to an end. Soon. Very soon.

Simon knew that this couldn’t go on very much longer. He did, after all, want to know how the book ended – what happened to the characters.

The end, he decided, was always the best part. Except sometimes the best part was the middle. And sometimes it was in the beginning.

Actually, Simon decided, he was simply not very good at deciding.

But he returned home, riding the almost-silent elevator until it dinged at the fourth floor, and walking down the hall to his humble abode.

He made himself dinner, ate it quietly, and washed the dishes afterward. Then he cleaned up the apartment – not that there was so very much of it to clean. Then he fussed about and did a few other things.

Simon did not lie to himself. And he would not lie to himself on this occasion either. He wasn’t doing anything – or rather he was. But what he was doing – whatever he was doing – didn’t cover up what he was really doing, which was waiting.

Simon was waiting. And he had no idea what he was going to do.

When the music came on at 10:04, it was a relief, as though some switch had been flipped and the tension had spilled out of the room.

He listened for a while. Ah, there was that roaring song again. Vaguely pleasant, in a commercial, sing-song kind of way, he decided. He almost liked it. Almost.

But it had to stop. He couldn’t live like this. He just couldn’t.

Simon thought about what he was going to do. Or what he maybe possibly sort-of could do.

He wasn’t going over there to knock on the door and tell her to turn it down. He’d long since realized that he couldn’t do that.

So what was he going to do?

Could he write her a letter? Maybe slip it under her door?

That was ridiculous. A note. Like they were still in high school or something. What would he write in it?

Dear Girl? Dear Neighbor? Dear Attractive-woman-whose-name-I-don’t-know?

Was a letter creepy? Perhaps mildly so. But, he decided, a letter was really his only choice.

Simon was, after all, not very good at deciding things.

But still, stubbornly – decisively – he pulled out a piece of paper and sat down at his cherry-wood dining room table to write. He liked his cherry-wood dining room table.

Actually, he liked everything in his apartment, which was why he had picked it out, but the table, he thought, was particularly lovely, dark wood, with a bright gleam in it. Dark, but not depressing. Quiet, with a surprising bit of bright beauty.

But his job, just now, was not to wax poetic about his dining room table. It was to write a letter. A rather difficult letter. A rather difficult letter made even more difficult by the fact that there was still raucous pound music coming through the wall.

Simon released a heavy sigh. Not that he could hear it, over the music. But he knew it was there.

“Hello.”

That was a good way to start a letter, wasn’t it? Friendly, but not too friendly. Not creepy-friendly. And it easily bypassed the whole name-knowing thing.

“My name is Simon. I’m your next door neighbor.”

So far so good. It wasn’t brilliant, gripping writing, but it at least had the virtue of being true.

“I like to read at night, and when you play music, I find it distracting.”

Also true, if perhaps slightly creepier. Oh well, there was nothing to be done about that.

“I would appreciate it very much, if you could turn your music down, or perhaps listen to it on head phones.”

There. Not bad. He’d at least gotten the point across.

“Thank you.”

He signed his name with minimal flourish, although Simon isn’t really a flourish-y kind of name. Not like Michelangelo or Armand or Vincent. No. Simon was just Simon. And generally speaking, he was ok with that, even if his name did look a bit small on the page.

With another heavy sigh, he folded up the piece of paper and tucked it into an envelope, even sealing the envelope for good measure.

There, he thought. That’s done.

Now came the hard part. Now he had to deliver it.

To be continued…..

December 23, 2014

Merry Pre-Christmas, everyone! Not exactly fiction…. but in the spirit of the holidays, here goes:

‘Twas the night before Christmas

And all through the home

Not a creature was stirring

Except my damn phone.

“Hey, Babe, you up?”

The text message jingles.

As if it weren’t enough

At Christmas, to be single.

“I can come over,” he texts.

“I’ll bring by some beer….”

The cell phone keeps blinking

And I’m not filled with cheer.

“Just go away,” I reply.

“I’d rather be by myself.”

I feel like the last toy

All alone on the shelf.

“Hey baby,” he texts. “I’ll jingle your bell.”

I’m tempted to tell him to just go to hell.

“Oh, come on, babe,” he says.

“I’ll drive by your place in a bit.”

My present for Christmas:

An asshole who won’t commit.

“I won’t jingle your bell,

I won’t trim your tree.

I’d rather be lonely

Than be your Plan C.

I’d rather spend Christmas

Alone, by myself.

Than spend it pretending

To be your happy elf.

May all of your days

Be merry and bright

And to you, you big jerk,

And to all, a good night.

Image courtesy of: http://www.morguefile.com/

December 22, 2014

Happy Monday, everyone! I’ve got the day off and I’m feeling rather under the weather, so here’s an oldie:

He reached the end of the paragraph, looked at the clock for a moment and held his breath, just waiting.

10:00.

He released the breath and sucked in a fresh one, his entire body tense.

10:01.

10:02.

And then it began.

There was no slow crescendo, no gap between the silence and the noise.

And noise it was. Some raucous pop song blaring through the wall.

It had been going on every night this week. It was like a ritual now.

Every night, he would settle down in his apartment, in his chair, with his favorite mug, which was, of course, filled with his favorite tea. Earl grey. A common choice. He realized this. He also knew the tea was more likely to keep him up at night than some decaffeinated berry concoction or some soothing sleepy-time lemon tea, but there was something so peculiar about the flavor of Earl Grey, that he felt was worth the sacrifice.

He would sit in his favorite armchair, positioned so that the light from the lamp on the wooden table slanted perfectly across the pages. And he would sit and enjoy his book, with nothing breaking the delicate silence – nothing but the roar of the occasional car passing in the street below, and, of course, the soft whisper of the pages as they were turned.

That was why he would never replace his beloved books with an e-reader. Nothing could ever replace that beautiful whisper.

He would read until precisely 11:03. Because he always promised himself that he would go to bed by 11:00. Thus 11:03 became, even in its minute increment, a guilty pleasure. And all guilty pleasures are, nonetheless, pleasures. Thus, Simon allowed himself this small one, and he managed to slip into bed at 11:07 every night with the glimmer of a smile on his face.

That was how it had been, ever since he’d rented this apartment. For the past year, four months and seventeen days. No – not seventeen days. Ten days. For the past seven had been completely unlike the rest – as unlike the rest as a penguin is to a chimpanzee.

And at times, he could almost manage to convince himself that it was a chimpanzee that had moved into the apartment next door.

He had chosen this apartment, in this building. Chosen it from the other dozen he’d visited. Because it was perfect. In a quiet neighborhood, on a tree-lined street, with a park less than a block away. The building was filled with elderly people – quiet, serene elderly people, who didn’t play music after 8:00. Indeed, they did not play music before 8:00, but the latter would not have concerned him much.

And for one year, four months, ten days and perhaps 20 hours, it had been perfect. Until this girl with her raucous music had come bursting into his life. Or rather, bursting into his eardrums.

Simon could hear her now, singing along to the radio, as she banged the dishes around in her sink, presumably in some semblance of washing them. She was not, he thought, totally off-key. In fact, her voice might be considered pleasant, if one were the sort of person who enjoyed loud music at 10:00 at night. Simon was not that sort of person. And he noticed the slight occasions where her voice did slip off-key, noting them with an odd sort of pride.

Simon shut his book with an audible snap – a barely audible one, as it was difficult to hear over the music. But Simon knew it was there and that was enough. He set the book aside and planted his elbows on his knees, leaning forward to plant his face on the palms of his hands.

Still, the music assailed his ears.

Why didn’t he simply get up, knock on her door and ask her to turn it off?

He wasn’t sure.

It was, after all, not such a very long way. From his living room to his front door. And then perhaps ten paces from his door to hers.

No. Distance was not the problem. The problem lay deeper.

For, you see, Simon had never been the sort of person who dealt well with strangers. And, if he were perfectly honest with himself, which he was, he would be forced to admit that everyone was a stranger. Indeed, everyone is a stranger, until you speak to them and they cease to be.

And this girl, the one currently torturing his ears, was very much a stranger. More so than most.

He had passed her in the hallway a few times over the course of this week, once when she was moving boxes into her apartment, once when she was returning from getting the mail, and once when she appeared to be returning from the gym, wearing sweatpants and a hoody.

She had always seemed pleasant, golden-blond hair swinging in a high ponytail, with a smile on her pretty face and a quick hi or hello for him.

And therein lay the rub. For she was worse than a stranger – she was a pretty stranger. And pretty complicated things ever so much more than strange did.

He could, perhaps, on occasion, deal with strange. But Simon had very little experience in dealing with pretty.

Simon thought about her returning home from the gym, practically skipping down the hall. That was a problem too. Home. For this place was, now, her home as much as it was his, for as long as she chose to make it so.

He winced as she failed to hit a particularly high note.

This was intolerable.

Simon knew he couldn’t put up with this very much longer. But almost equally intolerable was the idea of walking over there and knocking on her door.

Simon very little liked the idea of disturbing someone at home. He even less liked the idea of disturbing her.

What if she was in her pajamas? He knew how little he liked being disturbed when he was in his pajamas. Worse… what if she was naked?

Gulp. He tried not to think about that.

Whatever it was he was going to do, he was fairly certain that he wasn’t going to do it tonight. Decisively, he pushed the book away from him and turned out the light. Then he walked slowly into his room, where the sound from the adjacent apartment was lessened, and both her singing and the music itself were muted.

It took him a long time to fall asleep. Simon continued trying not to think about that.

Of course, he failed.

To be continued tomorrow…..

December 19, 2014

I’ve got a full day of shopping ahead, so you guys get the goods early… Also, more Christmas-themed than my usual. Hope y’all enjoy:

The damn thing caught the light, sending sparkles all over the grey felt fabric ceiling of the car. She looked at it ruefully.

‘How could it not catch the light?’ she thought.

The damn thing was huge. It seemed to occupy its’ own dimension in time and space instead of merely resting on her wrist.

She should, she thought, probably stop referring to it as ‘the damn thing.’ Eventually, it would slip out in conversation and she could imagine the heartbroken expression on his face when it did.

It had been hard enough to pretend to like the damn thing when she’d unwrapped and opened the jewelry box in the first place. Thick, yellow golden links. Not even regular gold, but an extra-shiny, extra-yellow gold that seemed to glow with a faint radioactivity. And an enormous, heavy golden brick of heart dangled from the bracelet chain. If someone’s actual heart were that size, she though unkindly, she’d have taken them to the hospital for cardiomegaly.

Ok, so maybe that one had been a bit of an exaggeration, but the damn thing was huge. She could feel it weighing her hand down as she drove. She didn’t even wear gold. She only ever wore silver. But he’d been sooo proud of himself for picking it out, thought it was so pretty. He’d looked at her with all the hope of a newly-adopted puppy shining in his face.

How could she have said, looking at that face, that she didn’t like it?

With a heavy sigh, she reached over to turn on the radio, hoping to take her mind off of it.

“Tell him!!!” the radio squawked loudly in a female voice and she nearly jumped out of her skin.

“Girl!” the voice continued. “You gotta tell him if that baby ain’t his.”

Ah. Ok. That was it, she’d just left the radio on the talk station and now it was some silly call-in show. That was it. The radio wasn’t telling her to tell her boyfriend how much she hated his present, because why would it do that? She wasn’t crazy.

And it was their first Christmas together. It seemed like a bad idea to tell him she hated his very first Christmas gift. With a decisive nod, she changed the channel.

“No, no, no, no, Baby, no, no, no, don’t lieee,” the voice sang. “No, no, no, no, yeah, you know, know know, know, you gotta try.”

“What you gonna do when it all comes out?

When I really see you, what you’re all about?”

She let her breath puff out in a rush, fluffing up her bangs. It was a fluke, right? Just a dumb song on the radio. She tolerated about thirty more seconds of song before she found herself grinding her teeth to it and changed the channel again.

“Baby don’t, baby don’t, baby don’t lie,

I don’t wanna cry no longer,

Baby don’t, baby don’t, baby don’t lie,

I’mma need a love that’s stronger”

Jeeez. How many times was this going to happen? She glared at the radio as she switched the channel yet again.

“Don’t lie, I want ‘em to know,

Dial up, three rings and return him his gold,

It’s the last time running through the snow,

Where the vaults are full and the fire is bold.”

“Shit,” she said, slamming on the brakes and glaring at the radio. It was a good thing it was the day after Christmas and the streets were still fairly empty.

“Fine,” she said. “I’ll tell him. Happy?”

“Urrgh.” She made the noise as she carefully made a u-turn and turned back towards his place.

He was still sitting on the couch, surrounded by the jolly clutter of opened boxes and ripped wrapping paper, when she knocked on the door. Standing at the door, jiggling her leg in nervousness, she could hear him mute the TV and slipper-shuffle up to the door.

“Hey, Babe,” he said. “Did you forget something?”

“I just wanted to …. Ummm… ask you something,” she said.

“Yeah? Shoot.”

“Did you keep the receipt for the, um, bracelet?” she asked.

“Of course,” he said. “I wasn’t sure you’d like it.”

He grinned a little sheepishly.

“My Mom helped me pick it out,” he admitted. “And I thought it was pretty, but I, um, wasn’t sure if it was exactly your taste.”

“Oh,” she said. “Well, I like it… of course, I like it. I mean, you gave it to me and how could I not like a gift from you?”

She was babbling, she knew. She should get to the point. She took a deep breath and let it out.

“I like it,” she said. “But you’re right…. It’s not really my style. I think maybe it’d be better if we could exchange it for something that’s a little more… me? And that way, you know, I’d wear it more often.”

She looked nervously up at him, still afraid of seeing that hurt look in his eyes. But he just smiled.

“Of course,” he said. “We can hit the jewelry store and exchange it Monday after work, if you want.”

She felt a weight lift off of her chest, not to mention her wrist.

“Thank you,” she said, with a big, relieved smile.

“No problem.”

And it was with that same lightened wrist and lightened spirit that she sat back down in the car a few minutes later. She glared at the radio.

“Are you happy now?” she asked it. Not that she was expecting a response. She wasn’t quite that crazy…

With hesitant fingers, she turned on the radio once more.

“I’m walkin’ on sunshine, Woooaah!”

She grinned against her will. At least someone was happy.

Writing Prompt: Radio Honesty Turn

Prompt Courtesy of:

http://shortstoryideas.herb.me.uk/random.htm

Image Courtesy of: http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/

December 18, 2014

Hi guys,

Sorry I’m late, again….. I’ve had today off and I’ve spent it mostly puttering around the house like a hobbit. Inspiration doesn’t seem to striking today, so I’m posting an old one. Also, I’m having a bit of trouble getting around wordpress, but I wanted to say thank you to everyone who’s reading these and everyone who has liked my posts – it really means a lot to me and I appreciate all of you guys. Thanks so much for all your support. And, without further ado, today’s entry:

The river water has a distinct smell to it and it’s not a pleasant one. The boat is small and rickety – I can hear the creaking of the wood, despite the noise of the streets.

People turn and stare, before returning to their lives. There – a fishmonger holds a brace of dead fish as if he were selling the finest diamonds. Dirty children scamper barefoot through the streets, small hands reaching into pockets, running to get away with whatever they can steal.

And I am still here. Does anyone know I’m still here? Does it matter?

I was their Queen, for a time. They never loved me as a Queen. Never respected me. But that doesn’t change the fact that I was. Hot tears burn their course down my face. I am innocent of the crimes brought against me.

Perhaps not innocent in all things….. But we all have our crimes in this life, do we not? Mine may be greater than some, but I assure you, I have never deserved this.

Witchcraft. Adultery. Incest.

These are the words that have been hurled at me.

None of them are true.

Where once they called me Queen, now they call me Witch. I am no witch. And if I were, I would not be here, on this cold, smelly river, listening to the slap of the oars against the putrid water. If I were a Witch, I would have made him love me. And as a mere mortal, I cannot. That, truly, is why I am here. Not because of witchcraft. But because I have won and lost the love of a king. And it is the losing that shall cost me my head.

It has been so short a time. Three years. Was he ever truly mine?

The slap of the oars against the river have stilled and the large gates slice open with a metallic clang, like the jaws of some great beast. It’s all over now. To the Tower. And it shall be the death of me.

I was once a Queen.

Will they even remember my name?

December 17, 2014

Sorry I’m late, guys… It’s been a tumultuous day:

Somewhere, far away, there is a small village sitting at the foot of a large hill. It is a quiet village – peaceful. And its’ residents do not speak of the castle that crests the top of the hill. If you find yourself in the village, in the dark of some Autumnal night, do not be concerned. The villagers are kind. You will, no doubt, find yourself resting comfortably, staring into the crackle-and-snap fire of some family hearth. You will be given plenty to eat and drink before finally, taking your rest for the night wrapped in warm, homemade blankets, cozy in front of the fire.

And eventually, when all the family has gone to bed and the room is empty and silent, save for the crackling of the fire, you will bask in its’ glow and reflect upon just how lucky you were to find this place, this pretty little hamlet, worlds away from the dirt and noise of the city. This lovely place where everyone is kind and warm. Where people take care of each other, without asking for compensation, merely because it is necessary – because it is the thing, kind, decent human beings do.

Yes, you will reflect, in the calm and peace of the evening, on how very lucky you are. And how beautiful this place is. Quaint, you’ll think. And you’ll tuck the blankets in around you just a little bit tighter as you realize that the silence is not quite as silent as you had thought. Somewhere, just beneath the soft crackle of the fire, you will hear a high-pitched whistle that is not quite a whistle. A fluting sound, somehow melodic and entrancing. You will try, for a few minutes, to convince yourself that it is merely the wind, howling around the thin wooden walls of the house.

But it is not the wind. And now you’ve started to pick out the melody, delicate and sweet and somehow just out of reach. It is not a tune you’ve heard before, but somehow it still sounds familiar. You find yourself almost humming along.

It is calling you. You know that now. You do not recall making the decision to get up or leave the house, but suddenly, you find yourself outside in the bitter cold. Only now the cold is not quite so bitter, not with the sweet tune in your ears. You find yourself itching to hear more of it – a desire you cannot quite put a name to, since you’ve never been particularly fond of music before. But you must hear more. You simply must. The need for it fills you and you begin to climb the hill, regardless of the cold.

You will climb the hill, with the chill moonlight illuminating frosted blades of grass on your way. You heed neither moonlight nor chill nor wind. You will follow the music. The castle looms at the top of the hill, like an ogre, casting its’ shadow across the valley.

Finally, you reach the hilltop. The castle, now that you are confronted with it, is no smaller than you had thought it was. But it is no longer silent. Enormous oaken doors stand before you, open just a crack, just enough for buttery rich lamplight to seep out onto the cold grass.

And the music that led you here is no longer just a flute, but a symphony, the music spilling out into the air like golden steam. Just beyond those doors, you know, is what you’ve always been looking for. You don’t know what it is you’ve been looking for, but you’re certain it’s waiting for you.

You smile without realizing it, as you push open the doors to the hall beyond. And it looks as though all the color that’s been missing from the world has come to rest here. You’ve stumbled upon a ball. Glittering jewel-toned gowns whirl in a dance. Gleaming silver and crystal and gems shimmering against pale skin. A carousel of color, whirling around you, as a man steps forward, taking your hand and drawing you into the dance.

You had not planned on dancing tonight. Indeed, you are not dressed for it, but your feet find the rhythm as you move. It is easier with his arm around you, supporting you, holding you close. Tall and pale, with long dark hair drawn back away from his face, and eyes so dark it seems you could fall into them and never reach the bottom.

He has not told you his name, nor has he asked yours. Nor does it matter. Names have no importance here. There is only the music and the light and the movement. And you.

He holds you tightly and you’re certain that he can feel your heart hammering against your ribcage. You notice that you cannot feel his heartbeat. And then you try not to notice that cannot feel his heartbeat. You do not want to think about why.

You dance for hours. The music continues, like an endless stream, golden and lovely. You do not become tired. Your feet do not ache. It feels like floating. It feels like the joy you have been continually seeking, but somehow never quite managed to find.

And when, in the dimness of the night, in the black hours before dawn, he takes your hand and draws you out of the ballroom, you do not protest. The small chamber off of the ballroom is dark and dusty. Even in the dim light, you can see a thick layer of dust on the furniture, limning the old-fashioned sofa and the heavy, dark-wooden desk. The mullioned windows cast moonlight onto the floor in strange patterns, pale and somehow sorrowful-looking, in spite of the music pouring from the ballroom just a few feet away.

He stands right behind you. Close enough, you think, that you should be able to feel his warmth up against your back, if there were any to feel. Cool fingers sweep your hair off of your neck, gently shifting it onto your shoulder. And when you feel the fangs against the skin of your neck, you are not surprised.

You will come.

You will dance.

You will become one of us.

Writing Prompt:

Dance, Castle, Flute

Courtesy of:

http://writingexercises.co.uk/take-three-nouns.php