Thursday, January 25, 2018

A Wake Up Call from the Venom of God

The street lamp outside blew, sending shards of glass pecking at my window. Sleep would be hard to come by tonight.

My alarm went off. I groaned into my pillow. I didn't want to get up, but there was no point in staying in bed. I struggled out of the sheets. They bound me to my mattress, damp fabric clinging, taking what little energy I had left.

Snaking my legs over the edge, my toes seeking the floor like a forked tongue, I stepped into a thick black goo. It covered the toes of both feet, my right thigh, and my left buttocks. Picture a dark vacuum-sealed plastic package. Or one of those shiny latex fetish catsuits with a zipper over the mouth hole.

I gasped for air and sucked in evil, thick as crude oil. I tried to go to my safe place, but I had a hard time remembering where that is.

The attack lasted for three minutes. I know because I counted off the seconds in my head to distract myself from the pain.

Meeting an angel should be pleasurable, not painful. I suffered electric shocks, crashing thunder, crushing darkness. Iron needles pierced my head behind my eyes.

I directed my sight at him, but my vision slid off the edges of his body...

Onto?

Into?

… six black wings, opaque and massive as the point of no return.

I teetered on the verge of a personal event horizon.

Samael spoke; his voice throbbed inside me.

Samael spoke, and I knew him; "chief of Satans" and "the great prince in heaven" ~ accuser, seducer, and destroyer.

“You waste yourself,” he said. My heart cramped.

“You don’t deserve to live.” My throat cramped.

“Say your prayers.” My stomach cramped.

Now I lay me down to sleep, I huddle, cower, hide and weep…

The pain in my stomach brought me to full consciousness. My physical-self was out of sync with my mind; the way TV images used to have white shadows back in the 60’s. I felt dizzy and nauseous. I stood, bent double, head down. I held onto the bedside table. I took a couple of steps, then ran, tripping over the bathroom rug and crashing to my knees before the toilet. I threw up all over the seat. I threw up until nothing came up except bits of my stomach lining.

When the heaving stopped, I collapsed onto the cold tile floor. I pressed my cheek down, trying to cool my fever. I lay there hyperventilating.

I have the flu.

I moved my face away from the vomit-splatter near my nose. Hallucinating because of sickness is better than coming face to face with an incarnation of Lucifer.

I rose to my hands and knees. I crawled, inch by inch, pulling the bathroom trash can along with me, you know, just in case. I knew I was close to my destination when I felt the rug burn my knees. I stopped by the bed and rested my forehead on the mattress. I took three deep breaths and heaved my body back into bed.

I lay there, naked, unable to pull the sheet over myself. I didn’t bother to try since I knew I was alone. The breeze from the ceiling fan cooled me. Tiny clicks on the wall by my head, like the soft tapping of fingernails on a mirror, drew my eyes up.

“Hitting bottom will be like sitting on a mountaintop by the time I finish with you.”

I screamed.

Sunlight bled through my sleep crusted eyelids. I burrowed under my blankets. After half a day in bed, my body ached. I hurled my pillow across the room and watched it land on a sneaker. Dirty clothes littered the grey carpet. White ankle socks with filthy soles cavorted with cotton grandma panties, and jogging suits never once used to break a sweat. I wanted to go back to sleep, to dream, but my bladder screamed. Sharp stabs like a pointed Bowie knife pried my thigh bone from my right hip.

No more Technicolor, Surround Sound, virtual reality happening in my head until bedtime. My dreams might be scary as hell, but that was so much better than my tedious reality.

I should do laundry, clean the dishes in the sink and vacuum the popcorn pieces. The excitement never ended. Since it was Saturday morning, I didn’t have to drag myself to a mind-numbing job. No boring cubicle surrounded by colorless people who wanted everyone to be as detached as they were.

My waking world was a gray photograph without highlights or contrasts. I didn’t even have the pleasure of a decent black and white image. Numb. I was numb. I couldn’t even feel my body. I had no idea where my flesh ended, and the air began. My physical world was as flat as bubbleless champagne. I wish I could drink like an alcoholic except I’d fall asleep, drool but not dream. No point in that.

I plopped myself down in the dusty, brown recliner facing my daytime companion. I turned on the TV; the only thing I managed to turn on these days. A few hours of mindless entertainment and I might find the energy to do something, anything. I glanced at my journal. The guilt and castigation started. Bargaining with my inner child lasted two hours. I still didn’t let her out to play.

I paused the DVR so I wouldn’t miss a moment of scintillating entertainment. I moved for the first time in hours to get a soup spoon and the ice cream carton from the freezer. When all else fails, eat and let the carbohydrates numb you up even more. Legal. Easy to get. Effective. The recriminations would come later.

The spoon fell out of my hand and landed on a fuzzball by my foot. I picked it up. I wiped it on my pant leg and took another scoop of chocolate peanut butter swirl. The spoon fell in slow motion, tumbling bowl over handle. It landed on the wood floor, splattering melted dairy like a cheap crime scene knockoff. I stared at it. A tear dropped from my cheek and mixed with the mess. The world was out to get me.

No. That wasn’t true. The world and I didn't relate. I never muster enough of anything to connect with an alternate reality outside my front door. I looked at that door. It was your standard wooden door, not even an inch thick in some places. I saw a stone wall rising above my head, dwarfing me, growing larger. It expanded to circle me until in an oubliette encased me.


My breathing ragged, it came in short, rapid gasps. I hyperventilated in childish ridiculousness. I snapped my mouth shut. A lack of air caused my vision to blur and white pinpricks of light pierced my eyeballs. I sucked in a lungful of oxygen. I flung my hands out to grasp the arms of my chair. My fingers struck my journal. It slammed onto the melted ice cream with a wet slop. I stared at it and knew my worthlessness.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Cimmerian, part 1

Rachel brushed her teeth. She spit. White foam tinged with pink swirled down the drain. The sink needed cleaning. A glob of neon green toothpaste clung to the rim. Congealed liquid soap pooled around the faucet. She moved her eyes away from the mess and captured her gaze in the medicine cabinet mirror.

The shock of seeing herself brought tears to her eyes.

She couldn’t even remember the last time she had looked at herself. The image in the silvered glass did not match the picture of herself she had in her head. She tried to look away but stared at the person in the mirror the way you stared at an auto accident.

Her eyes were puffy, with dark slashes under the pocket of fluid. There weren’t many wrinkles, but gullies went from the corners of her nostrils and down beside her mouth. Corpulent flesh swallowed her eyes, nose, and lips. A wobbly turkey neck hung below her chins.

If she had looked at herself more often would she have been so shocked? Would she have been able to prevent the horror that stared back at her? How was it possible that anyone else could stand to look at her?

She cried great gulping sobs. Sounds escaped her mouth, louder than the water running from the faucet. She had forgotten to turn off the water. She cried harder thinking of the water she wasted, lost down the drain, never recovered. She sucked in her breath, held it, smashed her lips together and covered her mouth with both hands. When stars flitted in her vision, she allowed herself to breathe once more.

Pathetic much?

The empty house didn’t care how much noise she made or how loud she was. It wouldn’t even echo back at her despite its size. She was alone after decades of caring for others, and the house was not a solace. The house now belonged to her alone, but it had never been her home and was not her home now. She did not belong here. She never did. She did not belong to anyone, anymore. It wasn’t likely that she ever would again.

She slammed the lid of the toilet down. She sat. The cold plastic shocked her naked ass. She leaned her elbows on her knees, placed her chin on her fists and closed her eyes. The tingling of cut off nerves in her thighs woke her up. She stood, steadied herself with the sink and forced herself to look at her face again. She stuck out her tongue.

God, I hated being pathetic.

She was free to do whatever she wanted. She walked around the house naked: through the kitchen and into the basement. She laid on the beds in all four bedrooms. She went into the backyard. She dared the neighbors to peak over the fences. The spring breeze raised bumps on her skin. She went back into the house, crawled into her unmade bed and slept for the next three days.

Her cell phone rang several times. She texted brief responses back to her daughter and her sister, unwilling to chat. She had to maintain some contact, or they’d be on her doorstep. Seeing her relatives at the funeral had exhausted her.

The next time she looked at herself, her hair was greasy and stuck out at odd angles. She stank. Her cheeks smelled from where she drooled and hadn’t brushed her teeth. Now, she looked hideous: as bad as she felt. Her stomach grumbled. There was no food in the house, and she was hungry. She smelled. She couldn’t even consider going to a fast food drive-through.

Fine.

She forced herself into the shower. As soon as the water hit her face, she cried, drowning in the hot spray. She sat down, her legs unable to hold her up in her hysteria.  Her heart was breaking. She pressed on her chest trying to stop the pain she felt there. She wrapped her arms around her knees and rested her cheek there. The water ran cold.

She rose, shaking; turned off the faucets. She walked wet into her bedroom. She grabbed her big, white terrycloth robe, wrapped in it, and crawled under the blankets. She’d eat later.

***

For this week's prompt at terribleminds - a song lyric I picked.

"Hello darkness, my old friend, I've come to talk with you again..." The Sound of Silence


Thursday, January 11, 2018

The Mind of Melissa

My mother died when I took my first breath. Her’s was the earliest life I took in payment for the gods’ blessings. I have memories of that time given to me by the spectators of the grave moment. Chaos reigned as I struggled to free myself from the confines of my mother's body. The medical staff fought to keep us both in the world. The calm that descended as she moved on and I moved into the world. My first experience with admiration for the perfection of my physical appearance.

Father worked three jobs to buy me the latest fashions. He gave me designer clothing, dance lessons, horseback riding, salon treatments. All the best pampering money can buy. He grew in stature in business and the community to elevate my status, knowing it took more than money. You need a name for fame. So he gave me one. I rarely saw him.

Nanna sat me in front of a mirror. She brushed my hair and told me her daughter’s death was a worthy fee to pay for such a beautiful child. She pampered and preened me. She didn’t mind giving up her child for the doll she received as long as I knew the cost.

As she made my hair shine, she’d pull out a strand here and there. I understood the lesson she tried to teach me. When she guided the silk slip over my head, her hands trailed to the soft skin under my arms. She pinched me, watching to see if tears sprang to my big, blue eyes. They never did.

Someone had to foot the bill for my beauty. I vowed that someone would always be someone else.

* * *

“Ms. Tamlin,” said Jessica, as she waved to our second-grade teacher. Her voice carried over the heads of the other children on the field.

“Melissa has my bracelet and won’t give it back.”

Ms. Tamlin stood in front of us with her hands on her hips. She wanted her students to work out their arguments without her involvement. Jessica had gotten the attention of everyone on the playground, students, and teachers. Now Ms. Tamlin had to get involved.

“Melissa,” she said to me. “Do you have Jessica’s bracelet?”

“No, Ms. Tamlin.” I looked up at her through my long eyelashes.

“She does,” said Jessica. “Look. It’s in her hand.” Jessica grabbed my left wrist.

I winced, a tear sliding down my cheek.

“Jessica. We do not touch each other in this school.” Ms. Tamlin handed me a tissue. I blew my nose, wiped my eye and smiled at Ms. Tamlin. She smiled back. Jessica’s cheeks turned red.

“She has my bracelet. Make her open her hand.”

I held out my open palm to Ms. Tamlin before she could speak. A bracelet with a letter M charm lay in my hand.

“See,” said Jessica.

“This is my bracelet,” I said. “See, the letter M for Melissa.”

“I got that for my mom,” said Jessica.

“Do you have a receipt?” I asked. She had told me she had shoplifted it this past weekend.

“No.” She scowled at me.

Ms. Tomlin walked away shaking her head.

For the rest of the school year, I pinched Jessica in the soft skin of her underarms when no one was looking. She grew pale and thin. She did not return for third grade.

* * *

“You’re putting on some weight,” Nanna said to me as I licked the sugary 13 off the top of my birthday cake.

I reached for more frosting while maintaining eye contact with her. She slapped my hand.

Later that night at bedtime, I gave Nanna her tea.

“You are sweet,” she said. I handed her the cup, wrapped in a lace doily, so the heat would not burn her fingers. “Did you enjoy your birthday party?”

“You made it memorable for me,” I said. I kissed Nanna’s cheeks and went to my room to sleep.

The next morning, Nanna’s cup lay on the floor. Digoxin-laced tea soaked her quilt. I removed the cloth napkin from her stiff fingers. I used it to place her empty pill bottle next to the saucer on her side table. I tucked the linen into my pocket. I used it later to wipe the tears from my face when the police and paramedics came to take away the body.

* * *

My image splashed over screens on phones, computers, and TVs around the world. The hoi polloi acknowledged my fame. I stood accused of hiring illegals to wait on me hand and foot. One of my maids had escaped the compound and flagged down a black and white.

“Nonsense,” I said to my high-priced lawyers. I crunched on a cheese doodle. “Who’s going to believe I hurt her in any way. I saved her from death in her own country.” I wiggled my orange fingers in front of my maid’s face. She licked off the salty powder.

“Melissa,” said the larger of my two lawyers. They were new, so I didn’t remember their names. “Someone beat her.”

“I have no control over what they do to each other.” I leaned back in my white leather chair.

“She says there are dead bodies buried in the basement,” said lawyer number two. “That you killed at least two young girls when they failed to please you.” He coughed. “That you made them bury the dead bodies.” His voice squeaked. He’d have to go.

“Look at me,” I said as I rose. I spun around for the men. “Do I look like a monster to you?” I pointed at my maid. “Does she look abused in any way?” The girl whimpered. She ran from the room crying. “See how upset she is for me?”

I picked up my crystal wine goblet. The dark red liquid reflected the light of the candles placed around the room. “This will be a piece of cake,” I toasted.

***
In response to the prompt at terribleminds - The Danger of Undeserved Power

Sunday, January 07, 2018

Keeping Warm in Revena's World

Revena lives in Castle House, built for battle and protection. It's made of the local Nagelfluh stone quarried from the glacial lakes created during various ice ages. A combination of limestone, sandstone, gneiss, amphibolite schist, dolerite and quartz, with a surface that looks like it's dotted with nail heads. It hardens upon contact with the air and resists deterioration, weathering and erosion. Buildings made with this material last for centuries and are perfect for resisting sieges and attacks.

Unfortunately, it makes for a cold and drafty living space, especially when located on a ridgeline surrounded by the rushing Salt River, fed by alpine snow melt, on the north and west and the High King mountain range (elevation 3,000 m) on the south and east. While the hilltop has been occupied for over 4,000 years by the time Revena was born in the year a.i. 883, (ab initio, from the beginning of the Principatus) the fortress was begun in a.i. 866, by her father, The Margrave.

To keep occupied and warm during the Winter months, Revena spends her time creating woolen clothing. She uses a technique, thousands of years old, called needle-binding or knotless-netting. Unlike knitting and crocheting which won't be invented for another 700 or 800 years, needle-binding is made using short lengths of yarn and one single-eyed, flat needle. This form of fabric making is used across the world. With this technique, Revena makes socks, mittens and scarves.

By layering clothing, indoors and on the rare occasions when she ventures out to get a bit of sun and to combat boredom, Revena keeps warm. She knows that covering feet, hands and head will prevent the chills and prevent cold weather ailments.

If you are interested in learning Nålebinding and working on a piece this month with me and Revena, here's a video tutorial to get you started.

Mittens, hat and scarf pictured above crocheted by vvk.

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Let the Real Work Begin

It's been six months since I've looked at Revena's Revenge: not a pretty love story. That should be enough time to let it look fresh to me so I can do one more edit/rewrite.

There are a few areas I want to tweak and expand, things I didn't have time to do while I was preparing it for my Pitch Week in Vermont.

I will take the opportunity to review the story and characters for the eventual movement into book two of the Storm Sword Trilogy, The Bastards' Battle.

My deadline for finishing will be March 31, 2018.

I am also working on my synopsis for Revena's Revenge. This is hard work. My deadline for the second first draft (the first one was ok but too short) is Sunday, January 7, 2018. This deadline is so short because I've been putting it off for way too long.

Finally, I am writing a short, short PDF book in the What Would Revena Do? (WWRD?) series that will be a give-a-way to build my email list. It will be about the basic tools of magic that Revena would use and how to duplicate them in your own home. The deadline for this is January 31, 2018. 

Thank you to my friend, Mike Keren, author of FOUR FUNERALS, NO MARRIAGE, a funny memoir of love, care taking, and loss for the WWRD? idea.

Time to go write those deadlines on my calendar and then actually do some work.