Gone

I remember the day I disappeared. It was a Saturday. A normal day. I had gotten off work early, and decided to roam the streets of this strange city I had found myself in.

It was the day my calls went unanswered. My text messages left unreplied. I stopped mid step as traffic roared by. I felt invisible. At first I was confused- why did everyone leave me?

But then I realized that it was me that had left them. I was the one that had gone so far, far away. The force of an encroaching darkness squeezed my vision to a closing pinhole.

I had been conversing with shadows all this time. Oblivious to the fact until the shifting figures had blended into the surrounding black. Hours past with me standing on that sidewalk. No bystanders seemed to notice. They didn’t care about me, nor I them. I was alone in an avenue bursting with people.

So I conjured up memories to keep me company. For a moment, the dim lights of long gone times floated by. They were happiness, sadness, snapshots of places I yearned to return to.

I was aware that they were headlights, but I reached for them anyways.

The squeal of brakes carried me away.

I’d rather be dead than gone.

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Happy Fourth

Billy turned down the volume on his car radio as he pulled into the empty parking lot. He checked his map. This was the place. An old strip mall full of abandoned nail salons and Mexican restaurants. A general sense of unease coated the area like grease on fries. He was a long way from the suburbs.

“Hey Billy!” A familiar voice shot out from one of the buildings. “Come on in! Glad you could make it!”

Billy couldn’t help but smile. Red was always coming up with these crazy shenanigans for the holidays. And the Fourth of July would be no exception. But he had never taken the group so far into the south side. Still, Red’s voice seemed to melt away any inhibitions.

Billy shuffled out of his car and into the dilapidated building. It was once a Payless shoe store. The kind Billy used to go to in middle school. It was weird seeing it in such bad shape. It was an empty concrete husk with scrap metal laying haphazardly along the edges of the floor and a single barrel in the center of the room. Red leaned against it as he shook with excitement. Another figure lurked in his shadow, Billy recognized him as someone from his school but could not seem to place a name to the face.

“How the hell are ya Billy? It’s been too damn long!”

“It’s been two days.” Billy shot back with a grin.

“Well, do I have something planned for us tonight!” He gestured to the plain looking kid next to him. “This is John. You probably know him from Algebra.”

Billy and John made brief eye contact before turning back to Red.

“So John here!” He clasped him on the back upon mentioning his name. “He says we can shoot fireworks at him for $50. He needs the money or something I guess.”

Billy smiled sheepishly and stepped back.

“What the hell is this man?”

John spoke up. “Look, I need the money and Red said I could stand all the way at the back of the store while you shoot. Just do it man, everybody wins.”

Billy tried to play off his comments with a shrug, but he still felt uneasy about the whole situation. Red was not helping with a manic energy that shook Billy. He was not sure why Red wanted to shoot fireworks at this kid and it was unlike him to be so outwardly mean.

Before Billy could protest, John was already walking to the other side of the room. Red was suppressing a deep chuckle. He inched a bony elbow into Billy’s chest.

“Hey Bill.” He whispered. “So you know how my Pa was fired from the plant the other day?”

“Yeah?”

“It was this fucker’s dad that fired him.” He gestured into the barrel.

Billy’s stomach flipped over. He could tell this was not going well. And when he peered into the barrel he was expecting the worst. Only to find a standard pack of fountains and sparklers. The relief was breeze that swept away his anxiety. If only that was all he found in that barrel inside that abandoned payless shoe store.

“Check it out man.” Red lifted the fireworks and underneath were two hammers. One for Red. One for Billy. “Let’s fuck this guy up. By the time he turns around and realizes it, he’ll be trapped.”

Billy paused for a moment. This was wrong. He knew it was wrong. But Red was his best friend. He reached into the barrel and grabbed his hammer. His hand shook with the implications of what he was about to do. When would they know when he had enough? What if they accidentally killed him? So many questions. He looked over to Red who was already getting in a few practice swings.

Red flashed a toothy grin. “Happy Fourth Billy.”

Rock N Me

107.9 FM bid me goodbye with an old jam hot off the airwaves.

Well, I’ve been lookin’ real hard
And I’m tryin’ to find a job
But it just keeps gettin’ tougher every day
But I got to do my part
‘Cause I know in my heart
I got to please my sweet baby, yeah

I learned pretty early on that if you blur your eyes the right way, you can see the world for what it is- a wasteland. You have to scavenge for everything you need in life and the last thing I wanted was a damn reminder.

A reminder of how I had failed.

I hushed the volume to a whisper, leaving a trail of hot blood pooling over my dash. The biting pain in my head subsided. Colors began to darken and swirl about.

Despot

The woods gave way to a bald hilltop. Buildings with thatched roofs and smoking stone chimneys flanked the dirt road ahead. Victor pulled back on his reins, slowing his horse to a standstill. He leaped onto the grass, ripping the blood-soaked cloth sack from the saddle. Aubrey followed suit, relieved to be through with the chafing of the ride. She massaged her aching thighs. Wearing a dress was not a good idea. Victor passed her by, swinging the bag at his side. The blood oozing through the twine mesh caught Aubrey’s eye. She was curious, but hesitant to ask. Understanding that the contents were terribly gruesome.

“People of the Hills!” Victor called out as he paced towards the houses.

Peasants clad in furs gradually wandered out of their shacks. Stretching their joints after being woken from their slumber. Victor waited for them to gather. Aubrey noted that these people did not look at them with fear. They seemed more confused by their sovereign’s sudden arrival.

“Hear me!” Victor announced. “Anyone who dares lay a finger on a Romanov.”

He flipped the back upside down. A pair of severed hands dropped at Victor’s feet. The still gathering crowd gasped. Aubrey winced silently before looking away.

“Will lose it.”

A man in the front row fell to his knees. He wept openly, consumed in his anguish. Others nervously murmured to each other. It seemed to Victor that the message had it’s intended effect.

“Send your tributes to the castle by the end of the week.” He spat.

Victor placed a hand on the small of Aubrey’s back. Nudging her back to the horses. He was eager to take her away from the squalor of the countryside. Back to the creature comforts of Castle Romanov.

“No.” The crying man rose to his feet. “We have nothing. You cannot draw blood from a rock.”

Though he still blinked away tears, he stood resolute. Victor noticed the impact it had on his kinsfolk. Fear quickly shifted to bitterness in a growing sentiment. Men were starting to run back to their houses, most likely to grab their hunting spears and bows. He redoubled his efforts to herd Aubrey away. She looked around nervously at the narrowing gap of encircling tribesmen. He slid a hand onto the hilt of his sword as a warning to them. Victor knew he could take this tribe by himself, but he was not sure if he could protect Aubrey if they all rushed at once.

“Run.” He hissed.

An arrow whizzed towards them. Victor drew his blade with blinding speed and sliced it out of the air. The mob stepped back instinctively. All except for the man with tears still running down his face. He stood his ground in an act of defiance and pounded a fist in the air.

“Victor Romanov! My name is Anton Krylov! And I am the man that will kill you!” He cursed.

The men and women of the tribe cheered in support. Victor grabbed Aubrey’s hand. They were completely encircled.

“Stay close to me.” He growled to her.

She trusted his judgement and obeyed. The swelling anger manifested verbally at first. Victor deflected the occasional arrow and hurled rock with short strikes with his sword. He realized that it was only a matter of time until the mob gathered enough courage to swarm them. He needed to think of a way to escape, fast.

“Watch out!” Aubrey yanked urgently at Victor’s sleeve to get his attention.

Victor spun around in time to catch an elderly woman mid-thrust. Dodging the spearpoint was a simple matter of timing. He gripped the extended shaft of the weapon with a single hand and barred his fangs. This was his opportunity to escape.

“Follow me closely.” He instructed.

Aubrey complied and wrapped her fingers into his coat tail. She was not sure what to expect, but she was drawn to his sudden certainty. Victor whipped the spear from the old lady’s grasp, redirecting the bunt hilt squarely over her chest. He shoved it into her firmly. Not enough force to impale, but enough to push her back through the crowd. Creating a fleeting path through the rows of people. Victor and Aubrey charged into the opening. The faces of snarling peasants blurred past. In a few seconds, they were clear. Victor released the spear. The momentum left the woman stumbling backwards.

“Hurry!”

Aubrey untangled her hand from Victor’s jacket. The two sprinted to the horses with arms outstretched.

“We are done cowering!” Anton roared behind them.

The mass of bodies stampeded in pursuit, emboldened by Anton’s fierce words. Victor was fast enough to escape easily, but he needed to keep pace with his struggling wife. Her breathing was erratic, and her strength was fading fast. Victor winced in annoyance. He dug his heels into the dirt. Aubrey shot him a puzzled look as he skidded to a stop. The mob was getting closer.

“Trust me.”

“O-Okay.” She panted.

With a swoop he ripped Aubrey off her feet. Then took off in a burst of speed. Moments later he had reached his mount. Victor grunted and tossed Aubrey onto the saddle. He pulled himself up with ease and slapped his feet against the horse. It whinnied gruffly. Sharp pebbles flew into the air as they raced down the road, retreating into the forest. Aubrey looked over her shoulder at the hill tribe slowly fading between the trees. Shuddering at the thought of what they would have done to her. She wrapped her arms around Victor’s torso with interlocked fingers. Letting out a relief laden exhale and gazing out into the passing woods.

“Are you hurt?” He asked.

“No. I’m fine.” She laid her head onto his shoulders.

Victor sighed. He had never imagined himself running away like he did. Of course, he was thinking of Aubrey’s safety. But he could not shake the feeling that a fire was started here. One he would be hard pressed to smother. He thought back to the man that had incited the violence. The man that had promised to kill him. Anton. Anton Krylov.

Victor was certain that they would meet again.


This is a bit from a writing project I abandoned a while back. My laughable attempt at a vampire romance novelette. I ended up just losing interest. This encounter was supposed to be the moment when the newlywed Princess Aubrey and Victor Romanov spark the rebellion that brings the couple closer together in order to defeat it (She hates him initially). Maybe my next attempt at romance will be less cheesy haha.

Framed

I DIDN’T DO IT

A puddle nestled between the gaps in the cobblestone road splashed as I sprinted past. Soaking my aching feet. The shopkeepers looked up from their wares at my racing figure in horror. It seemed that the news traveled faster than I could run.

My stepfather always had it out for me. Though he was a pillar of the community, he was a cruel man. It started with little things. My mother’s ‘stolen’ necklace stashed under my pillow to turn her against me. A local grocer’s till found under the floorboards of my room to portray me as a criminal. He took care to never abuse me. At least not in any way that could leave a mark. He would always say the same thing: “Who are they going to believe?”

But it had never gone this far before. That man wanted to ruin me.

“You! Stop!” A policeman yelled from a passing alleyway.

He shouldered a flintlock rifle to scare me into submission. I didn’t stop. Even when my leg exploded in pain at the cracking of the gun. I collapsed onto the ground, clawing my way down the street. I had to escape.

“Get him!” An orchestra of fast footsteps grew louder.

I felt a boot press against my bloody leg. Though the agony was unbearable, I pushed the impending screams down to the pit of my stomach. I looked up at the grizzly man in uniform.

“Alan Whitaker. You’re under arrest for matricide. You fucking scum.”

I could hear the ferocity in his growling voice. He was right to be angry. A woman was dead. My poor mother. I found her head under my pillow when I got home, her hacked up body was crammed under the floorboards. When I confronted my stepfather in his study, he only laughed.

“Who are they going to believe?”

Dig

The foot squeezing my rib cage kept me pinned to the ground. A soil spattered edge of the shovel pressed against my trembling throat. My Adam’s apple struggled to gulp repeatedly, stopped each time by cold steel. The man standing above me in a jet blue suit stared into my soul with squirming pupils. He pulled the spade away, releasing me. My body convulsed with involuntary coughing and wheezing.

“Do we understand each other then?”

“Yes.” I wiped away tears with a hand caked in dirt.

“Get diggin’ then.”

I reached for the shovel, but the well dressed man pivoted it out of my grasp. He gave me a disapproving look with empty eyes.

“Your hands. Use them.”

I nodded obediently, then I rolled onto my knees and sunk my nails below the withering grass of the forest floor. Tearing into the earth’s crumbly flesh. Buried rocks and roots cracked against my knuckles, insects wriggled from out their furtive burrows. Occasionally I looked back at the man. He leaned casually against his shovel, tapping his foot impatiently.

“You done yet?”

The pit was barely a foot deep. My spine racked nervously.

“We got all day.”

I dug til the clouds bled orange and purple. The evening breeze whistled its way between the twisting pines. I was sure to take it all in. Memories of the most mundane variety were increasingly precious to me.

“Stop.” The voice boomed, echoing through my core.

The man fiddled his fingers playfully. A wicked smile revealed his festering teeth. The blade of his shovel scraped a trail as he walked toward the pit. I stepped out to face him. I had resigned myself to die, but my fists disagreed. They squeezed around the sharpest pebbles I could find. The man met me at the edge of the hole. He had swung the shovel over his shoulder. His wrist twitched with anticipation. There was not a moment to lose.

“Thanks for your-“

I threw the rocks with the force of a coal train. They clattered harmlessly off his surprised expression. All I needed was an opening. I sprung low to the ground, tackling the man off his feet. A pained exhale exploded from his chest as he slammed to the ground. I took advantage of his shock and wrested the shovel from his grip. He laid there, breathing heavily as I rose to stand. I used the shovel to finish the job.

Thinking back, I should’ve called the police. Instead I buried the mutilated corpse. And stuck the shovel into the ground. It was all I knew about him. I thought it a fitting headstone.

Atomic Stories and Lovecraftian Writings.