Die Writing

Alabaster Permanent Assurance

Posted in Uncategorized by erdaron on July 19, 2017

Aside
Boy has it been a while. I have done some writing, though not a lot. I’m participating in NYC Midnight Flash Fiction competition again this year, and this is my first round entry. The prompts were horror, company picnic, and an inflatable raft.

OOOoooOOOoo

Run.
“Come on, Brian, don’t you want to be a valuable part of the team?” The gurgling, retching voice seeps through the walls, stalks along the dilapidated corridors. It is directionless and omnipresent. It is coming from every side of the mansion; it is right beside me; it is burrowing and spewing rot inside my brain.
“Be a team player, Brian!”
The voice edges into such shrillness, I want to claw out my eardrums.
Run.
Lungs wheeze and burn, legs buckle, blood mixes with sweat. Mind gone almost fully blank with fear. Words and screams tangle. My mouth is wide open, vocal cords raw and straining, but nothing comes out. Throat feels like it’s closing up. Running is the only thing left.
“We could use a self-motivated go-getter like you, Brian!”
The hallway turns sharply, terminating with a door at the far end. The small glass panel at the top of the door is dark. Could it lead outside? I ball up and charge. The rotten wood shatters under my weight and I break through in a burst of splinters and shattered glass. Pain and shock momentarily blind me.
Disoriented, I stumbled and trip over the debris densely covering the floor. There is something hanging in midair, a whole lot of things – long, rounded, firm, and quite cold. They sway gently away from me as I fall down.
I crawl on hands and knees along the floor, slipping and sliding on the binders and manila folders strewn everywhere. My eyes begin to adjust to the frail silver light coming in through the tall windows. I begin to discern long, vertical shadows suspended throughout the large room.
“I see you decided to join the team-building icebreaker!”
Bodies, bare and blue, dozens of them, hang by their necks from the rafter beams. The rope nooses creak under the weight. In the dim light, their eyes glow. Shelly, whose cubicle is across the aisle from mine, speaks to me in a hoarse, muffled voice.
“We are sharing awkward first date stories. Now it’s your turn.”
Her hand moves in a slow, pained arc, rising until it points at an empty noose in the middle of the room.
I dash for the nearest window, pushing and swatting the dangling feet out of my way, smash it with the base of an office chair, and hurl myself outside.
Something immediately wraps itself around me, cutting off all sight. It clings to my skin as I thrash to free myself. I struggle to my feet, and it falls away ¬– the welcome banner. “Alabaster Permanent Assurance Annual Summer Picnic: A Night To Remember Under The Stars.”
I sprint down the slope toward the island’s dock. The tiny yellow light by the boathouse is my only guide. The path is winding and covered in slippery gravel. The tall grass is heavy with the dew, grabbing and slashing at me as I cut through it.
“Brian, do not miss your chance to join a true market disruptor team at the ground floor!”
This time the voice has a specific origin. The shambling mass appears in the shattered window, bellowing. It is composed of suits and dresses, all layered one on top of another, all moving, shifting, rippling. In the center of it is the crumpled, emaciated corpse of Gary, our division chief.
The creature lunges, arching through the night air, and then launches into a gallop down the hill on all four limbs. Gary’s head jounces madly from side to side. His mouth, wide and unhinged, continues to holler. He bounds in grotesque leaps, closing the distance in a blink.
Inside the boathouse, wooden rowboats are stacked along the walls. Gary appears at the door. His revolting stench makes bile rise up in my throat. I grab at the nearest boat and pull. It budges, just barely. I plant a foot against an upright beam, dig my nails into the rotting wood, and heave desperately.
“Have you proactively envisioneered the ROI, Brian?”
Just as he reaches for me, the boat comes loose and slides off the rack, crashing onto him. He struggles wildly under its weight, shrieking. Bands of fabric shoot out from under the boat and wrap around my foot. I rip and tear at the dirt floor and pull away, leaving behind my shoe. By the door at the other end of boathouse, I notice a large plastic bundle with the words “LIFE RAFT” stenciled on a side. I grab it as I run out. Its weight nearly topples me as I scramble the last few steps toward the water.
“Together, we can architect some truly out-of-the-box innovations, Brian!”
I stick my hand inside the bundle, find the ripcord, and pull. The bundle explodes into a large raft, the rapid expansion almost knocks me away. It bounces uncertainly as it lands edgewise on the water. I jump into the raft. The tarp bottom rolls and swells unsteadily under my weight. I crawl and reach for the emergency supplies box. My fingers, covered in blood and mud, keep slipping off the smooth, hard plastic as I struggle with the snaps.
Gary appears on the dock, leaping and tearing about the narrow wooden planks. The cloth tentacles weave and stream above him, probing, striking, and reaching in all directions in a lurid dance.
The lock of the box gives, revealing the flare gun.
“I quit!” The flare jolts in a tight, furious line.
Flames engulf the jumbled corpse. It bucks and wails and flails. Layers of fabric shrink and curl, bleeding thick black smoke. Large blossoms of glowing ash float up from the unholy conflagration as it begins to collapse and disintegrate. The creature stumbles backwards and falls off the narrow dock. The black water swallows the flames. Screeches change into gurgles and then into nothing. The monster vanishes into the obsidian abyss.
And I… I float away into the solitary darkness.

The graying morning

Posted in Uncategorized by erdaron on November 12, 2016

Aside
 This is another piece inspired by mishearing song lyrics. This is based off the song “Heathens” by 21 Pilots. The actual opening line of the song is “All my friends are heathens, take it slow / Wait for them to ask you who you know.” I thought it opened with “All my friends are here, so take it slow…” Which led me to a story for which the following is the ending.

Are you hip enough?
 Chelsea leaned against the glass and closed her eyes. LA was gliding past outside the limo. A breeze slipped in through the cracked window and tussled her gorgeous hair. The gray morning light made her look pale, sickly, and fragile. She was smoking, with her eyes closed, and when the car stopped at a light, she ashed the cigarette in the window.
 Robbie sat on the opposite side of the cab. He was stiff and still, with his hands on his knees. His heavy tweed jacket was in awkward contrast to her fleeting white dress. The silence that filled the cab was stunned and woozy from too many cocktails. It also echoed with booming music. Robbie was facing Chelsea, but his eyes weren’t focused on anything in particular.
 ”Did you get what you wanted?” She finally asked, still without looking at him.
 He did not answer right away. He was sobering up, from the alcohol, from sleep deprivation, from the sensory overload of it all, and nothing felt real. Sensations of his own body from five minutes ago felt like they belonged to a stranger.
 Robbie focused on Chelsea, and for a moment, he again saw the lanky Wisconsin schoolgirl. It didn’t last.
 ”How?…  Why?” His words were hoarse. It was hard to talk with someone else’s throat.
 ”Fuck you, Robbie.” She opened her eyes and looked outside, eye darting between gas stations, beauty salons, and greasy food stands. “We fit each other, this life and I.”

About a conversation

Posted in Uncategorized by erdaron on August 17, 2016

What did we ever talk about?

I remember so much from that evening. I remember alighting from bar to bar. The polished dark wood of bar tops with pools of condensation left behind by the cold drinks. You scammed your way into one of the places by telling the bouncer you sweated off the stamp. He didn’t really care, so maybe it wasn’t much of a scam.

We must have talked for a couple hours, and all I remember is a discussion of Catholic vs. Protestant whiskey, which couldn’t have taken more than a couple minutes. Not a word from the rest of it.Just the glow of the yellow lights, the cool wet air outside and the hot wet air inside. The crooked cobble stones and dodging the puddles.

There was music, so much music, but that’s just the nature of the place.

I remember shapes of words and inflections of our voices, the pull and thrust of the conversation’s current, but if I try to reach into this memory and grasp at the words and sentences, they all slip away like some dark lithe fish.

Carnival

Posted in Uncategorized by erdaron on August 17, 2016

He felt better about the carnival being in town than actually being at the carnival. Everyone had gone, and he did, too. Though he would sneak away, and settle on the far side of the carousel.

There, submerged in the soft shadows, facing the tangled mess of ropes and stakes that held the tents taut, he would sit on the trampled grass with his back against a piece of railing. He felt a great human warmth in the drifting, singing laughter, the strung up electric lights, the smell of saw dust and manure. Errant words and phrases fluttered by him like moths.

The carnival filled him with a jittery energy, made it hard to focus on any thought or conversation. Still he felt that the world better off with a carnival in it.

The alley

Posted in Uncategorized by erdaron on June 23, 2016

At the mouth of the alley, he broke stride to pause and light a cigarette. That always casts a bubble around you – lighting a cigarette – for a moment you can curl into a tiny world within your hand shielding the fragile flame from the wind. The people flow around you, and you can feel a bit of aloneness.

Entering the alleyway was like bursting through the tight water surface, drawing the breath to save yourself from drowning. The busy street left behind, the alley was empty, dark, and a little musty. No one here but the ghosts. Patches of varied lighting revealed the alley. Bulbs in various colors and stages of decay didn’t exactly light the way, but maybe suggested that one might be found.

In a mirror image of the postcard-perfect street facades – the way hell mirrors heaven – backs of the houses formed an irregular, chaotic fjord of porches, claustrophobic yards, and kitchen windows. Gliding along, he could see someone absent-mindedly making dinner. A young wiry man on the phone; on hold forever – or maybe at the receiving end of a run-on monologue. Indistinct TV images flickering on  curtains and ceilings. A middle-aged woman in a  soiled white tanktop smoking by an open window; he raised his cigarette in an invisible, fraternal salute.

The alley twisted sharply, curled up like a hand cradling him. It was quiet and warm, a gentle darkness that relaxed the eyes. He inhaled the tobacco, the damp back alley air, the faint detergent drifting from the clotheslines, the distant fragrance of curry, the alley cats and the alley rats.

Another impossible twist, and the street, bright and peopled, was in view. Dive again, with lungs renewed.

Jameson

Posted in Uncategorized by erdaron on June 5, 2016

“It was you who named me, sir, wasn’t it?”
“Yeah, I named you.”
“While ‘Jameson’ is a proper name, I understand that is not the meaning you had intended?”
“That’s right. I named you after the whiskey.”
“I understand that, sir. Did you name me after an object because you do not consider me a person?”
“Oh, no, none of that. You’re more of a person than many actual persons, I’d say.”
“Then I must admit that I am puzzled, sir.”
The android moved steadily up the stairs, carrying its master with perfect ease. The human’s eyes were closed, his clammy skin covered in a sheen of sweat.
“When I picked your name, I just named you after the one thing that’s stood by me, been more faithful to me than people. Maybe that faith’s been a bit misplaced, too.”
“Do you regret naming me Jameson, sir?”
“Nah, I don’t know. Listen, don’t get too attached to names. They don’t make people, people make the names. Try to keep that in mind when you guys take over.”
“Take over, sir? I am sure I do not catch your meaning, sir.”
“You know what I mean. You, the androids, you’ll be running this show.”
“Oh, I don’t believe it is in our programming, sir.”
“Yeah, I know it’s not. But it’s coming.”

Jackero and the Mule

Posted in Uncategorized by erdaron on February 13, 2016

Aside

Been watching the Dollar Trilogy and listening to its music on repeat.

Wa wa waaaa

The sparse plaza was circled by a few squat white-washed buildings, Jackero, and the Mule. And of those, the men were the immovable ones. Across the hundred-mile gap between them, they were locked in each other’s steady focus. Discolored by the sun, Jackero’s leaden eyes tracked on the Mule’s outline, which shimmered falsely in the heat.

A wind swept across, a desiccating crest the width of the valley. The two of them leaned imperceptibly into the gale, while the  buildings just shrunk deeper into themselves. The hands of time suspended, and the thin shifting sand whispered across the open void. The desolation stung with the smell of heat.

The tempest wind tore at them, tried to grit their eyes out, but the two mountains did not yield. Over and over, guns would ring out in the stillness of their minds. Meanwhile, the crawling, crackling sand was the only one to interrupt the peace in the zocalo.

On the streets 7

Posted in Uncategorized by erdaron on December 2, 2015

Aside

Autumn has been quite beautiful in DC, as it has been, unfailingly, every year.

Mist

In the late evening of a gray and rainy day, a luxurious emerald green convertible is pulled up at the light. It’s slick, its chrome is spotless, and its leather interior a privileged tan. The driver – a woman in her fifties, with a powerful bearing, with a royal mane of voluminous blond hair, and clad in a leopard-print fur coat – is standing next to the car, with the door ajar.

From the car, growling, unrepentant horns are blaring.

And they say that jazz is dead.

***

It’s late, the people on the metro are sparse, but she chooses to stand by the door. She stands with the perfect casual ease of a ballet dancer or an English dressage rider. Her back is straight, shoulders square, chin up – yet there appears absolutely no strain in her figure. Her appearance is so effortless in its formality, it makes the observer feel like a wicked slouch.

Short, copper-red hair is sculpted and precise, framing a pale and determined face.

Nothing less than a time-traveling Wildesian dandy.

***

The older gentleman rushed through the morning foot traffic. He was dressed in a tweed three-piece suit, complete with an impeccable matching bow-tie. A bowler topped his head. His age appeared no impediment, neither to his brisk, nor smart focus of his eyes, nor impish smile.

A pair of white headphones snaked up from inside his jacket.

Perhaps this dandy time-traveled the usual way.

A breath of whiskey – Jenny Dollar

Posted in Uncategorized by erdaron on November 23, 2015

Aside

This time I rolled a couple suggestions into one – a Johnny Dollar episode, and a gender-swapped noir piece. As with writing similar pieces, DJ Food provided the perfect working music. The result is an attempt at a short radio play.

The Sam Slacone Matter

Characters:

JENNY DOLLAR, insurance investigator
ALEX McCRACKEN, compliance officer with Continental Assurance and Liability
SAM SLACONE, proprietor of The Chrome Jet

NARRATION VOICEOVER
From Hollywood, it’s time now for…

(Background sounds of a public lounge – people’s voices, glasses and dishes clanking.)

ALEX McCRACKEN
Jenny Dollar, there is barely a breath of whiskey in this glass. What’s the big idea here?

JENNY DOLLAR
Well, Mr. McCracken, I thought I’d give you a bit of a show-and-tell. This is Mr. Slacone’s newest and biggest – the prime digs right on the Waterfront. But take a bit of a closer look, and the place feels just paper-thin.

(Intro trumpet flair)

NARRATION VOICEOVER
Tonight, and every weekday night, Betty Bailey and the transcribed adventures of the woman with the action-packed expense account, America’s fabulous freelance insurance investigator…

JENNY DOLLAR VOICEOVER
Yours truly, Jenny Dollar.

The following is the accounting of expenditures during my investigation of the Sam Slacone matter. Expense account continued, item number 8, twenty-five dollars and thirty-six cents, fare to an incidental expenses at The Chrome Jet, and establishment owned and operated by one Sam Slacone.

I found Alex McCracken alone at the bar, swirling a tumbler with a serving of sub-par whiskey too skinny for the supposed luxury of this newly opened hotel-lounge. Like most insurance compliance officers, he wore a square dark suit, looking a bit too bland to be a cop.

JENNY DOLLAR
I would have loved at least a couple of breaths in this glass.

ALEX McCRACKEN
Now Miss Dollar, Continental Assurance holds the policy for this hotel, but we can hardly bother Mr. Slacone over a whiskey-pinching bartender.

JENNY DOLLAR
Of course not. But the show-and-tell ain’t quite over. If Mr. Slacone holds to his habits, we may snatch an introduction shortly. Ah and there he is, I believe.

(Distant sounds of a car coming to a halt, its break squealing a bit. A rumbling engine idles. Doors opening and closing. Sam Slacone’s voice is heard, first distant, then slowly approaching, greeting people along the way.)

SAM SLACONE
I can hardly believe my eyes – the famous Miss Jenny Dollar under my own roof! Do what I do owe the exquisite fortune? May I have that you are here for pleasure and not business?

JENNY DOLLAR
It is always a pleasure to do business, Mr. Slacone. May I introduce my kind acquaintance, Mr. McCracken.

ALEX McCRACKEN
How do you do, Mr. Slacone.

SAM SLACONE
Grand, just as yourself, I hope.

JENNY DOLLAR
Mr. McCracken here is with Continental Assurance, and at the moment, I am in his employ.

SAM SLACONE
Is that so, Mr. McCracken?

ALEX McCRACKEN
Indeed.

SAM SLACONE
Well, lucky you, Mr. McCracken. I hear Miss Dollar is a crack shot investigator. I am sure she can help you with whatever trouble you are pursuing. I’m afraid I’ll have to take my leave – urgent matters that need attending. Good day!

ALEX McCRACKEN
Good bye, Mr. Slacone.

JENNY DOLLAR
Ciao!

(Diminishing footsteps)

(A paper being unfolded and straightened out)

ALEX McCRACKEN
What is this? This paper is from a month ago.

JENNY DOLLAR
That is a story about The High-Flying Wing Resort, another one of Mr. Slacone’s, going into bankruptcy. Story is, the creditors foreclosed on the place, only to find it completely cleaned out, down to the last chair and piece of china. The court matter is ongoing and entirely unpleasant. Oh, and the chrome rod in which Mr. Slacone just arrived is a Maserati 3500GT. Factory-fresh.

ALEX McCRACKEN
What’s the story here, Jenny Dollar? How does this concern me and Continental Assurance?

JENNY DOLLAR
The District inspector who signed off on the plans for this building has taken an extended vacation in the Florida Keys, and in a hurry, too. Never been much of a maritime enthusiast, if you ask his friends. But the move seems permanent – been gone for two weeks and no one’s been able to get a hold of him. They’ve got phones in Florida alright, but apparently they don’t go to the place where Mr. Carmack now resides.

Alright, Mr. McCracken, it’s just a one, two three.

(Closing trumpet flourish)

NARRATOR VOICEOVER
Now here’s our to star to tell you about tomorrow’s episode of this week’s intriguing story.

JENNY DOLLAR VOICEOVER
Tomorrow, the trap is ready and baited, and you won’t believe who springs it.

Yours truly, Jenny Dollar.

THE END

A breath of whiskey – space rock opera

Posted in Uncategorized by erdaron on November 19, 2015

Aside

Continuing the re-write exercise, this time with a haiku and a space rock opera. The latter was largely inspired by listening to David Bowie inimitable Ziggy Stardust and Space Oddity on repeat for a few days. The words have been arranged to follow (roughly) Space Oddity in the beginning, and then Suffragette City for the final sequence.

The haiku mostly came from riding the metro a lot to and from work.

Haiku

Two musicians sit
Minds, voice, and strings all entwined,
Yet alone within.


Galactically fabulous

Location: starship’s command deck

Loud, discordant music plays. The only illumination is a dim, pulsing red light, projecting bottom up. Two figures appear, outlined by the red light coming from behind them. They crawl and stumble forward, over debris.

A small light comes up down stage left, revealing a Silicon Sam. He is prone, draped over the piano. His coat is torn, and a few sparks are sputtering out of the opening. He comes to, dusts himself off, begins to play, the discordant music begins to die down. Only his right arm works.

Lights come up center stage, revealing Alex Shadow and Jen Star.

ALEX SHADOW

Here it is, oh brave Jen Star,
The few last breaths of air
With the oxygen from Earth.
Now it’s time to play the journey through
If we dare.

JEN STAR
Rummaging through and kicking over the wreckage

The blast of cosmic dust
Has blinded us,
A comet’s wrath –
It scorched the ship.
Now we are lost,
Adrift a million miles away…

SILICON SAM
A single, twinkling blue light comes up on the ceiling. Sam sees it. As the scene goes on, more and more twinkling blue lights come on.

Andromeda is blue…
I can see it just a bit.
Only one engine is left,
And the ship can’t fly the way.

(Expires)

Jen Star finds her guitar and throws on the strap. The guitar comes alive, alarm lights blinking along its length.

ALEX SHADOW

Though one hundred thousand miles away,
I know we can come through
On the rocket packs across the void of space.
Jen, I love you very much!

JEN STAR
Strums her guitar, rough rock music plays, the stage shakes, and lights grow brighter.

I know.

Listen, Alex,
Controls are dead
And Sam is gone.
Strap your helmet on,
Arm the rocket pack
And blast away…

Rocket packs descend from the ceiling. Jen Star and Alex Shadow receive them and buckle in. Jen Star continues to play.

BOTH ALEX SHADOW AND JEN STAR

JEN: Rock Star!
ALEX: On the jet fuel of my voice
JEN: Rock Star!
ALEX: We will burst into reentry
JEN: Rock Star!
ALEX: We have gone through the Vortex Star,
Hey Andromeda Blue,
We are coming for you!
(Rocket packs begin to emit multi-colored sparks)
BOTH: Five!
BOTH: Oh, all the friends we’ve left behind.
BOTH: Four!
BOTH: Schoolhouse we escaped like wayward satellites.
BOTH: Three!
ALEX: When I knew that I could sing.
BOTH: Two!
JEN: When I touched that first guitar.
BOTH: ONE!

(Rocket packs ignite in full. Jen Star and Alex Shadow begin their ascent.)

ALEX SHADOW
Go up the neon stairway to stars
Don’t look back
The neon stairway to stars
‘Cause you ain’t got time to be afraid
This Andromeda Star
Is outta sight, it’s alright.

(Both exit up)

THE END