Die Writing

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.”

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.”

Own choice

Posted in Uncategorized by erdaron on July 4, 2013

Michael trained the raven-colored pistol and his heavy eyes on Cedric. Muzzle toward the heart, and eye to eye, they squared off grimly.

“I don’t care for your self-righteous bullshit,” spat Cedric.

“You won’t have it.”

“Nothing about this being God’s will? Nothing about meeting my maker?”

“None of that. No idea about God’s will. Everyone’s always dragging him into everything. This is getting settled with just the two of us. No third parties.”

“I’m fucking tired of your burned-out junkie poet bullshit. You are just filthy as the rest of us, Michael.”

“At least I’m late to the murderer party, Cedric. You deserve every bit of this.”

Cedric quieted for a minute. He was bleeding from his temple. The whole left side of his face was swollen. He hurt all over, But more than the pain, the circumstance was maddening. Why was he the one to get punished? Why was precious Cedric the one to catch the whip? It was unfair.

Unfair unfair unfair unfair!

He just took what was his. Everyone did. Yet he was only one in this dump, facing a gun full of bullets with his name on it and a determined trigger finger. Any other day – at any given moment – he’d shove Michael’s head into the mud with the rest of them.

“Fuck you. You won’t get a goddamned confession out of me, you won’t get a bloody list of regrets. I – ”

Michael fired. Then again, and then again. Cedric’s body jerked with every shot, deflated, slumped back. The thin wisps of smoke, the harsh beams of light coming through the window, the pattern of Cedric’s shirt cut themselves indelibly into Michael’s mind. He could feel these images searing themselves into his mind. He felt sick, like someone swung a hammer into his stomach. There was no sense of justice, no feeling of a wrong righted. Just the mud that crept into his hollow heart.

Marla

Posted in Uncategorized by erdaron on April 7, 2013

Aside

I need to write more. Need.

Easy

She wasn’t pretty. Bony, pale, flat-chested, with angular arms. Under the shallow stomach, her pelvic bones stuck out like pistol grips. But her look growled. You couldn’t look away. Your mind would come across her leaning against the wall next to the bar’s bathroom, examine her coldly and try to slip away toward someone packaged more nicely. You would try to think, “She is not attractive.”

But her eyes would come back, “No, fucker, I am.” And spell-bound, you would mumble, “YES.”

She took her lovers like a storm, and kept only those who did not bend, only those who did not become overwhelmed. Their bonds were implicit, unspoken, and absolute, even if momentary and transient.

Heart as black as mine

Posted in Uncategorized by erdaron on November 27, 2012

Aside
The first time I heard Melody Gardot’s Your heart is as black as night, I thought the title was Your heart is as black as mine. It had probably been a couple of months before I realized my mistake (the song is quite popular among the juke box blues dancers, so I have heard it many times). I thought I’d try rewriting the lyrics to fit my misheard title.

Swish

Your eyes are alight,
And I’m dressed in white,
But your heart
Is as black as mine.

Our words flow like wine,
Holy songs of a shrine,
But your heart
Is as black as mine.

I don’t know why I felt so safe
In your angelic eyes,
But if I let you hang around
We’re bound for the flames.

‘Cause your blade may be sharp,
But my poison is quick.
Your heart is as black,
As mine.

I don’t know why I felt so safe
In your angelic eyes,
But if I let you hang around
We’re bound for the flames.

‘Cause your blade may be sharp,
But my poison is quick.
Your heart is as black,
Your heart is as black,
Oh, your heart is as black as mine.

The spirit

Posted in Uncategorized by erdaron on May 14, 2012

He stood outside the bar on the wet street. The unique bar fragrance of booze, tobacco, and sweat was slowly draining off his clothes. Hands stuck deep in the pockets, and shoulders drawn up in the cold air, he stood and stared down the street. The cobble stones meandered between aged colonials and dim street lights, dissolving in the shadows just a few blocks away. His eyes were fixed on the fuzzy darkness.

She followed him a few minutes later. The drunk air and the buzz of the music clung to her. She carried it along. She clasped his hand, he barely reacted, and she tried to follow his gaze. It was merely an empty and crooked street.

“Are you ok?” She asked.

“I came here looking for the spirit of this city,” he said, surprising himself with the revelation. He thought that in jest before, but now it seemed completely serious. “This whole time, I knew it was here somewhere, some place in this city. But now I can see it, just a block away.”

He paused. This sounded insane, but he also knew that it wasn’t. He could not really decide whether he was speaking in metaphors or not, but it also seemed irrelevant, like this wasn’t the sort of thing that could be neatly divided into “real” and “not-real” categories.

“I want to go to it, but I know it will just move on the moment I take a step. I could keep wandering these streets all night,” he felt, knew even, that if he did chase the spirit, the night would never end. “But it would just turn into more alleys, slip through more arches and shadows until I find some terrible end of my own. And I still would be no closer to it than I am now.”

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.

That dance

Posted in Uncategorized by erdaron on December 30, 2011

They slid toward each other with a grind. There was electricity between them. The kind with lightning arcs snapping back and forth. Their movements were slow, dragging. Muscles taught, ready for a fight. The hands did not so much glide to their resting spots as scraped along.

The music swelled, ripped up its own strings. They danced. They moved together with the fluidity of a mad mountain stream – rough, torn up, perfect. Never breaking the intimate embrace, they clutched at the dance and each other, furious at everything that led up to this moment, thankful that this moment existed. The line between the music and their broken love blurred and dissolved. Breaths shallow anxious. Tears in their eyes.

The last note sounded off like an executioner’s gun. The ring hung in the air as the last of the dream faded. The world came back crystal clear. Painfully clear. Everything was a pile a bloody shards, and now even the last song had come and gone.

A thin membrane

Posted in Uncategorized by erdaron on December 11, 2011

Aside

Who are the people I keep talking to in my head?

One night, too late

They both leaned against the wall, much too late in the night and much too close for the conversation to be polite and friendly. They were both anxiously expected elsewhere. She put a hand on his chest, felt the heat of his skin through the fabric. His breath formed into steam. It was freezing, but they were completely unaware.

“Never thought…”

“It is a thin membrane that you are up against. And terrible, terrible things are writhing awake just beneath.”

They stopped. They breathed again, filling the shrinking space with steam. She curled up her fingers, gathering this shirt into her grasp.

“I am not the choice. You are not choosing me. The choice is our worst demons.”

“It is dark poetry.”

He shifted his weight forward and his hand bumped into her hip. The fingertips turned and traced her outline, glided on the silk around her waist. Her eyes walked up his body. Their swirling gazes met.

The grasp on his shirt tightened. Some of her fingers slipped into the gap between the buttons and were touching his skin. She held on with all her strength, but was not drawing him closer. His hand on her waist was pulling on her as much as it was holding her in place.

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.”