I have some news for you; but first, this week's Halloween/Día De Los Muertos Flash Fiction!
Hard rain slowed to a halt outside the old house. Andrew waited in the bedroom upstairs and feared looking out the window. Instead, he had the blinds shut and focused on the hardwood floor and the dark red carpet and the bed to his left. A hot drink was in his hands. He had asked for tea. He didn’t know why. After everything that he had seen that day, he doubted that a warm drink would be the first thing he could possibly want. Sweet scents and the heat took his mind off of things, but only for a short while.
The day was a blur. It began with waking up in a bed that wasn’t his. He entered the kitchen and was greeted by a man he knew as his car mechanic the day before. The man swore he was a librarian.
Andrew fled the apartment. Outside, he saw his mother arm-in-arm with a stranger, denying she knew her only son. At his office, nobody recognized him, and neither did he know any of them. He spent the afternoon hiding from the rain in an old coffee shop, his senses escaping him.
Then he saw the thing rising in the streets.
He saw it spreading everywhere, a black mist that snaked through every road and into every window he saw. People breathed it in, and let it enter through their faces and up their fingernails and inside their clothes. Everything began to grow dark and thick with the twisting black mass; that is, except for an old house he saw up a large hill. He ran for it.
His host and the owner of the old home crossed the threshold of the room in a one-piece black silk dress that stopped at her ankles. Three obsidian bangles sat on her left wrist. Pale skinned, brown-eyed and raven-haired, she was tall with a broad face and full lips. Back in town, the children claimed she was a witch, calling her Lady Hyena or Madame Jackal behind her back.
She said she preferred Shauna.
“How’s the tea?” she asked, walking up to him.
“Not helping,” Andrew admitted, “But it’s making me focus.”
Her fingers drummed against themselves, “You know you’re safe, right?”
“I don’t know what’s happening,” he whimpered, avoiding the question, “I think I’m going crazy.”
Shauna’s eyes traced up and down his body with the same intrigued look she gave when he first showed up, “Do you, now?”
“Everything’s different,” he muttered, “I told you, everything’s different. I don’t know what’s happening. I,” he swallowed, “I need help, lady.”
She laughed, “And you think seeking shelter from the storm with this old cougar will help you?”
“You can’t be that old,” he said, sceptically.
Cooing, she leaned over and pinched his lip, “You’re sweet. Besides, I’ve heard the children say I’m quite the bitch.”
Andrew shook his head as she let go, “Kids can be cruel.”
“Honesty comes from the mouths of babes,” she misquoted. “But we’re not here for idle chatter, are we?” She crossed the room and opened the blinds. “We’re here to talk about that.”
Hesitatingly, he joined her side.
At the window, they saw the massive, writhing shadow emerging from the centre of town. Lights flicked off and on as amorphous limbs stretched into each house and store and church it could find. Red bubbles rose and fell across its ever-twisting form like bloody mist. Branches of its impossible body rose and clawed at the sky.
“We’re the only ones that can see it, you know,” she said, her hands finding his shoulders, “And it’s been here longer than you could possibly imagine.”
He found himself staring at it, staring into its pulsating red-and-black body, “What does it want?”
“Change,” she said, leaning in, “Constant change. Every night it rises and pulls people’s memories apart, places them in different homes, gives them different jobs – even rewrites the records at city hall. Then, it sinks back to wherever it came from and watches you live another life.”
“Why?” he asked, feeling her breath.
“Fun?” she whispered, “Perhaps it feeds on incomplete lives, wasted potential energy? All I know is that you go to sleep a believer and wake up an atheist. One minute you’re the mayor’s son, the next your dad’s the town drunk.”
She lowered her eyes, “My mother knew about it years ago. This place was never touched by it, not once. That’s why I was raised here. That’s why I invited you over two days ago, Mister Repairman.”
He blanched. “I’m not a repairman.”
“You were,” she insisted, “I took photos. You said I was being awful peculiar. Don’t you recall, Greg? Or, who are you now?”
His blood ran cold. “Why do you want me?”
“I’m lonely,” the woman confessed, circling round to his front, “Just some middle-aged lady with poor fashion sense and an overactive libido. I used to drift from man to man to woman across this whole town, and now my bones ache and I need to settle down.” She put her arms around his neck, “You just so happen to be the man for the job.”
He tried to take a step back, but she had him fastened in place, “You’re nuts.” His voice began to break.
“I’m bored,” she complained, pulling him close, “I used to think it was exciting, seeing a new world open up before my eyes every morning. Maybe it’s time for stability. Maybe it’s time to save some lives,” she stroked his neckline and hummed thoughtfully, “We can start now.”
“This is a joke,” he wept, tears rolling down his face. Blindly, his hands sought the sides of her dress, “This is all a joke. My name’s Andrew. I work in a bank. I studied accounting. I did a minor in Latin. I,” he gulped, and pressed his forehead against hers. Big sobs bubbled up in his throat, and words escaped him, “I – I –”
“Hush, now,” she cooed, pressing her finger against his lips. “We’re safe. Just you and me, we’re safe.”
He gave in.
Outside, the shadowy devil shook its limbs at the sky and rumbled out a deep, agonized groan.
Inside, Shauna drew him in for the longest kiss in his known life.
So, now that that's done, I have two things to say!
First and foremost, one of my short stories is going to be published in the December 2011 issue of Schlock Magazine! I got the news this morning and spent about half an hour floating one foot off the ground. I feel like I'm finally making some headway with my writing! Thanks for reading! Let's hope this doesn't make me all pompous.
On that note, I'm also announcing that I will be writing in NaNoWriMo this year. I already did it last year, creating a massive novel titled The Anti-Cupboard of Cassandra Dalton. I intend to return to the characters and world I created there with a sequel titled The Unfortunate Life of Crystal Qiu. As such, updates will be a little more irregular on I've A Nuke while I try to hammer together this new creation and search for stable employment once again. Expect little blurbs and bleeps here and there, but on the whole I'll be focused on this. It will be big and IT WILL BE WEIRD.
See you next time! Happy Halloween, y ¡Feliz Día de los Muertos!