Die Writing

The Maid and the Bishop (FFC 2016)

Posted in Uncategorized by erdaron on September 22, 2016

Aside
This is my second-round entry for NYC Midnight’s Flash Fiction Challenge. Since I scored zero in the first round, this may also be my last entry for FFC 2016.

The prompts were historical fiction, circus tent, and a doll’s head.

Perhaps, this needs some historical background. Surely you’re familiar with Joan of Arc. Cauchon was a French (Burgundian) figure, closely allied with the English cause. He presided over Joan of Arc’s witch trial. Jean, Duke of Alencon was a French nobleman and military commander. He was among the first to recognize Joan’s value, he was her close ally and even friend. Joan of Arc was nineteen, and Jean was about twenty-two. At the time Joan had come along, about a third of France was lost to the English and their allies, and the French haven’t seen a major military victory in decades.

For France and King!
 Mud streaked her face. Blood caked one side of her head. Swelling and the sweat made it almost impossible to see out of her left eye. She was bound to a chair with rough twine that cut into her bruised flesh; her arms were growing numb. A terrible thirst scorched her throat.
 Four guards stood in silent attention around her. The red tunics covering their spotless, gleaming armor bore the three lions of the English.
 The battle had been a roaring human storm. Afterwards, a silence so deep, it made your ears ring. Wind quietly whistled around the ragged canvas edges of the tent. She thought she heard distant horses.
 The canopy of the once-splendid tent rested on two mighty poles. Rotting straw covered the floor. The center clearing was ringed with benches, many broken and overturned. The faded canvas had lost its bright colors. Joan remembered tents just like this. They would be full of actors, acrobats, and clowns with clever limericks. She could not recall any. Her thoughts sank into a drowsy molasses.
 There was a rustling of heavy cloth and a burst of bright sunlight. Someone exclaimed in French:
 “Do my eyes deceive me? Is it really her? It is. A glorious day! Right here in the flesh. Joan of Arc.” The tall man clad in a fine heavy robe approached her, bending over to look closely in her eyes. A wolf’s smile appeared on his lips, and he continued with the flat and measured tone of a coffinmaker’s hammer. “The mighty, invincible Joan of Arc.”
 “Cauchon,” she breathed through her cracked lips.
 “One and the same.”
 The man straightened up and took in the shabby pavilion.
 “What in heavens is this place? A county fair, was it? Ah, the plays. The Lovers.” He pursed his lips in an exaggerated kiss. “Pierrot, the clown.” He frowned with theatrical sadness. “Nonsense, the lot of it.
 “This arrangement is temporary, of course. You’ll be moved shortly. To Rouen, eventually. If you’re lucky, maybe you’ll even see England before you are executed.”
 Then he added, in English, “Leave us.” The soldiers obeyed.
 He circled behind her. Joan’s neck was too stiff to follow him.
 “You’re quite pretty, you are.” Something creaked and thudded heavily. “Did you ever fancy yourself as Colombina?”
 Cauchon reappeared in front of her. In one hand he was holding the head of a wooden doll. He blew the dust from its perfectly polished countenance and held it up next to Joan’s muddied face. Then, he grabbed her chin and twisted her head, comparing her to the doll. Her neck and spine burned with pain.
 “The men talk about you, you know.” He studied the toy and the young woman. “What about Jean? That handsome boy duke of Alençon. Does he find you beautiful?”
She spat at him. He swung his fist wide and hit her. She did not flinch; the soldiers had hit much harder. The rings cut her skin and fresh blood trickled down her cheek. He dropped the doll’s head and splintered it with his boot.
 “You stupid girl. Dukes don’t go with peasants.”
 His gaze wandered away from Joan, and traveled toward something distant, beyond the canvas walls. His tone again turned casual, absentminded.
 “They are still dying for you. They scattered, but… Burgundy’s got the fastest horses, and your friends have none. All they ever really had was hope in you. Turns out, that’s not as good as a horse.”
 He leveled his gaze on her again.
 “You brought them here, and now they are all going to die.” Tears welled up in Joan’s eyes. She did not even notice them at first. Joan remembered the faces of those who stood by her without wavering, even before a certain death. Seeing her in their lines, they drew a fresher breath.
 “You should have stayed on the God-forsaken farm, girl.”
 Tears came as a torrent. She wept and choked on her sobs. She remembered the bodies strewn on the fields, the inhuman tension in the battle lines just before a charge, the exhausting, crushing marches. Yet even in those moments, the darkest of them, she saw courage grow in the hearts left fallow and barren by a lifetime of defeat.
 “I couldn’t… I couldn’t.” She shuddered, struggling to speak through the tears. “We are dying on our land. I had to come. And so I have come, and so I have done God’s work. Don’t you see that this is His plan? France will right herself with Charles as the king. God has told me so.”
 “Blasphemer,” he grabbed her throat. “You will burn for these words!”
 “He has told you, too. You can see it as clearly as I.”
 Cauchon peered into Joan’s broken, filthy face streaked with tears. Her eyes were as steady as a mountain’s heart. He recoiled.
 “The English will abandon you. They will sail back to their isles, leave you here as so many bilge rats, and never look back. In death, I will stand with the brave multitudes. But you, Cauchon, for the rest of your life you will stand alone, seeing terror in every shadow.”
 Cauchon staggered out of the tent. Joan’s words thundered in his head like hammers. He tugged at the suddenly suffocating collar.
 “Sergeant, have the prisoner bound and gagged. We leave for Beauvoir,” he ordered in a rasp, halting voice. The sergeant regarded Cauchon indifferently from his horse, then raised his hand and signaled to his troop. The English cavalrymen began to form into a column and move out onto the road heading north.
 “It’s just a woman, bishop,” the sergeant said coolly. “And she’s bound.” He rode off without waiting for a response. The troopers’ capes and banners billowed in the wind as they steadily receded. Cauchon stood still. A frigid, sucking hollow formed in his chest.
 “The witch,” he whispered in a quiver, not daring to go back into the tent. “The witch.”

On the streets 4

Posted in Uncategorized by erdaron on December 7, 2014

Aside

The rainy day edition.

Drip

She was walking in fast, wide strides. The night was cold and wet, yet her black leather jacket was not even buttoned up, revealing a tight black tank top. Her frame was slight and angular, filled with a visible, palpable heat and fuel that drove her through the autumnal darkness. I could not see her face because she lowered her umbrella, bracing it against the gusts of wind and rain. A brief moment, and she disappeared down the street.

It took my mind a few minutes, but I realized I have seen her before. Of course, I could not have recognized her face. But her bursting way of walking and the feverishly energetic, unbending figure cutting through he nighttime darkness were unmistakable.

Maybe I just remember people better at night.

***

It’s a century-old colonial brick house, fresh and clean from the slow rain. The sparse street lamps give it a suggestion of color, but mostly it’s just shapes, outlines, and a wet glisten. The front door is wide open, casting a soft glow into the night. The house is filled with brilliant white light, warming like the sight of a distant hearth.

A woman appears in front of the doorway. She stands tall, with shoulders square and feet set wide and firm. Her smart peacoat adds to the air of alertness and confidence. Her silhouette is sharp and dramatic. If an edgy TV cop show wanted to send a daring and brilliant young detective to a delicate scene concealing a potentially grizzly crime, they could hardly paint a more perfect scene.

A circus dream

Posted in Uncategorized by erdaron on January 11, 2012

I had a dream the other night. It was such a fantastic dream.

There was a great darkness, and flashes of light that sparked against that darkness. The sinister shadows flowed from every crack, flooded the sky. Yet the sparks refused to yield. They held on and blistered the night around them.

I saw a man and a woman on a wire as they walked precarious toward heaven. Great winds and thunderclouds tore at them, but they could not be shaken.

I saw a monster cry over its lover as she drew her last breath in its arms.

And then I saw a brave little mouse draw its sword against a mighty dragon.

It was such a fantastic dream. But it left me so very sad.

The man with the favors

Posted in Uncategorized by erdaron on October 15, 2011

A glass of expensive whiskey and a cigarette in the right hand.  A chrome-plated pistol in the left. Whiskey held casually at waist height. Three-quarters burn on the cigarette with just a bit of ash, with a simple, understated fragrance that instantly puts images of leather saddles bags in your mind.

A perfectly starched white pin-stripe shirt – necktie loose, top button undone – and tailor-trimmed slacks would normally place this man in a luxurious board room. But the gun – the gun held back just enough to not be obvious, but just large enough to not go unnoticed – makes the scene wrong, surreal.

How could one person make such a transition – from exclusive glass-and-steel to this place, standing a puddle of… Blood? Sweat? Waste water? – with such ease? Some people are just natural at wearing a suit. This man is a natural at wearing Fifth Avenue’s best while carrying a gun in a run-down warehouse.

“Well greetings to you. Fuck you.”

Wouldn’t be a Haley

Posted in Ezra Haley by erdaron on September 8, 2011

Aside

Also a rewrite from memory. Should have some new sketches for this storyline though :).

Spare

They circled the young boy like sadistic coyotes. Ezra pinned himself against the wall, breath shallow, nose bleeding, body aching and bruised. The most painful, however, was the paralyzing realization of the quick and fatal failure. The journey from his mother’s home was bleak and brief indeed.

“Didn’t know they made you guys so young,” the bandit smirked and flipped Ezra’s father’s badge between his fingers. “No matter. Not the youngest I’ve taken.” He produced a long knife from within the folds of his cape. “It won’t hurt for long.”

The strike was swift and nearly silent. The ruffian moaned and stumbled forward into the wall next to Ezra, fumbled the knife and slumped down. His companions instinctively reached for their blades, ready to turn the tight corner into a bloodied battlefield.

“Back off, scum. The boy is mine.”

The woman’s voice froze them in place. They knew this voice, its weight and command. The boy with the badge was a joke. The lady with the badge was the kind of risk you simply didn’t chance. The men hesitated just long enough to make sure no one would say they ran off, disappeared quietly and quickly, leaving the woman and Ezra alone.

Keeping herself in a murky shadow, the woman silently studied the boy who looked up to her with eyes full of hope and fear.

“Put that badge away and don’t show it to anyone,” her grave voice thudded like a brick.

“But I’m just looking… want to find…”

“Not a suggestion, boy.”

Another heavy silence. Elsewhere, the tavern was returning to its usual level of noise and bustle.

“Come on, I’ll feed you,” her voice finally let some warmth through. “I’d tell you to turn around and go home, but I know it won’t do any good. You wouldn’t be a Haley if it did.”

This town of ours

Posted in Uncategorized by erdaron on September 4, 2011

Aside

I think depression is better for my writing productivity than happiness.

Slingin’

The blinding sunrays filled the dusty street. They lit up a generally dull street. Gray houses. Gray dirt. A rare glint in the scene is a tiny speck of brass casings.

A man is sitting on a porch. Hat’s brim shifted low over the eyes that are narrow slits. His posture is casual, relaxed. There is no tension, just a the dull black steel of pistols in his lap and calloused fingers on the triggers.

Death doesn’t stalk this town. It takes up residence on Main Street.

Lord Kuerich

Posted in Ezra Haley by erdaron on July 26, 2011

Aside

Man, what if I actually put one of these categories into a full story. That’d be something.

Enter

The heavy door creaked and swung open before Lord Kuerich. His tall, gaunt stature and movements, so precise they seemed mechanical, gave him a marionette-like appearance. His manner was exact and deliberate. Commanded, the guards left and closed the door behind them.

Ezra could just barely see him in his side vision. He tried to turn his head, but the restraints and the searing pain in his neck stopped him.

Slowly, gracefully Kuerich walked into Ezra’s view. He set down his doctor’s satchel. Something sharp and metal clanked inside. Then he carefully sat down and directed his gaze at Ezra. Kuerich was stretching, savoring every moment of the long pause.

Panic was rising in Ezra. He could feel it come up from his stomach. A churning, suffocating ball of fear was filling his chest.

“My name is Kuerich. What’s yours?” He sounded polite and gentle. He gathered his hands, leaned back in the chair, and smiled.

“Ezra… Ezra Haley…” Words came with a struggle.

“Right. Pleasure to meet you, Ezra.” Kuerich continued to smile and leaned forward, studying Ezra’s eyes. His expression was focused, as if he meticulously studied an artifact rather than a living person. His long fingers vaguely traced over Ezra’s facial features in midair.

“Are you frightened by me, Ezra?” The boy said nothing, and Kuerich smiled even wider. “You are rather frightened. That fear… this panic.” He pointed at Ezra’s chest. “It is quite alright, though. You have every right to feel this way. I am a frightening creature.”

Kuerich sat on the edge of his chair, leaning even further forward, just inches from Ezra, his long fingers almost touching the boy’s face. Ezra shut his eyes, tried to sink himself into the hard back of his chair.

“My my my…” Kuerich mumbled to himself and stood up. He closed his eyes for a second, and began to slowly gesture, speaking quietly in an ancient tongue. His fingers left traces on the air, lines of thin black smoke. In a few stroke, he wove a symbol. Its lines solidified for a moment, and then the symbol dispersed.

Smoke began to pour out of the sleeves of Kuerich’s robe, pooling around Ezra’s legs, climbing up his body. The boy struggled helplessly in his binds.

“Time to rest, young Haley,” Kuerich uttered. Ezra began to lose consciousness.

Blood and rust

Posted in Uncategorized by erdaron on May 30, 2011

The fog on the silver marsh parted, revealing a group of heavily armored knights. It clung to them with its wispy tendrils, hanging off the dull gray metal, catching the tattered capes. Stark moonlight drew them in sharp shadows, glistened on the dew set on the armor plates. The group glided noiselessly, moving between clumps of trees and towering waves of fog. The forest’s darkness and the dense fog billowed behind them like raven’s wings.

The men were hunched over in their saddles, exhausted by the endless ride. Their tired eye scanned the surroundings again and again, over every tree, boulder, twig and leaf, each familiar and remembered in exact detail. The black horses trotted heavily on.

“One last time, then, sire?”

“Yes. One last time, soldier.”

“Until the next time, then, sire?”

“Yes. Until the next time, soldier.”

The soldier’s voice resonated with faith and loyalty. The king’s voice had cracks in it, heavy with a painful burden.

The knights crossed the clearing and once again were swallowed by the shadows underneath the ancient trees. Their ride of the damned will never end, bound by a broken promise so many lifetimes ago.

Make it dark

Posted in Uncategorized by erdaron on April 26, 2011

Aside

I need a blues late night. Need it.

Play that slide

“Gonna get dark in here.” Eyes closed, hat’s rim shifted down, the bluesman licked his lips as he spoke. His voice low as a grave. “Mmmm yes.”

A single note. Raspy, distorted, scum of a note.

The base player sucked in his cigarette. The bastard glowed like it was going to burst into flames. Then he poured out the rhythm. Simple, thumping rhythm that grabs your ribs, sucker-punches you, makes your breath quiver.  He laughed, pouring a cloud of thick smoke over the guitar.

The bluesman shifted the slide, changed the note ever so slightly, made it even dirtier. He wielded his strings like a shank in a bar fight. It didn’t matter who he left bleeding. There was a frenzy coming. But like every good storm, it was no good rushing it. The bluesman was patient.

“Fuck,” he growled into the mic, and matched the baseman’s rhythm with his own. It was slow, mad, menacing as hell. It was a road that led off a cliff.

Break.

Notes echoing, dying in the amplifier.

Silence settling in the place. Bullets itching in the chamber. Knives glistening in the scabbards.

“Fuck this,” were man’s last words. Then it came on, all over everything. Mad. Pissed off. Swarming the place. Sweat-soaked, cheating, whiskey-stained, bloodied up blues. It broke chairs, pushed people down, shattered a bottle. The guitars were torches shoved into buckets of tar. The end was coming, and this blues was cashing in all of its chips.

Reversed

Posted in Uncategorized by erdaron on April 15, 2011

“Nobody’s gonna hear you scream out here, friend, so just play along nicely.”

This was a big man. As one accustomed to towering over others, his movements were calm, even slow. His sheer size and brute strength allowed him to overpower his opponents without much need for skill. His companion wasn’t as imposing, but similarly grim.

And it was true what he said – the lonely park path wound deep into the woods, far away from any possible interruptions. The wind rustled the treetops, and this was the only sound to be heard. Everyone carefully weighed the silence.

“The same applies to you, too, friend,” was the reply.