Dolls

Dollhouse

Photo: Bellafaye

Dian turned off her cellphone, and slipped out of the hotel suite she’d called home since the conference began a week ago. She rode the elevator down, walked across the marble floor of the hotel lobby, and out onto the street. She borrowed the keys to the rental car from Jackie her personal assistant who reluctantly agreed to clear the afternoon’s schedule while Dian made her trip out of the city and back into the suburbs of her youth. It wouldn’t just be a trip through the streets, onto the highway, and then out into the land of manicured lawns and the smell of barbecue coals on the air. It would be a trip in time, too.

She didn’t expect to see anyone she knew. She moved from here when she was seventeen, just before the end of high school. Now she was forty-eight, although she looked thirty-eight. Everyone else she knew was probably gone, too. That’s what you did when you were from a place like this. You did your time when you were a kid, and then you left. In Dian’s case, it was a move into the city with Mom and Dad for the last few months of high school, then university, then a job right out of school, several promotions, a marriage to Mark, a partnership in the firm, and two beautiful daughters not soon after. It was like a logical progression for her. It never occurred to Dian that anyone would actually want to stay in the town they were born in. There were too many ghosts when you stayed in one place like that.

But, coming back here for the conference, with her hometown only forty-five minutes away down the highway had been like a sign to her, perhaps another logical progression. She knew she had to leave, and go back to the old neighbourhood. Because sometimes, ghosts didn’t stay in one place, either. Sometimes, despite all of your sucesses, they followed you. They reminded you who you really were.

So, maybe this trip back would help. Maybe it would finally help.
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Quoth the Crow

Assignment: Mystery/Comedy with a random object/thing – a crow

When it comes to tales of mystery and the imagination, you could do a lot worse than going back to the father of the genre; Edgar Allen Poe himself. Poe was a haunted man who lived in obscurity, and who struggled with some pretty serious demons. I suppose that’s one of the reasons he was able to do what he did, which was to change the course of storytelling that helps readers to explore the dark side of what it is to be human.

Yet, he was a writer like any other when it came to sitting down and filling up a blank page. He must have had a process for it; maybe even a Dark Muse to help him along. So, this story is a sort of speculative fiction about the author of “The Raven”, and the inventor of the modern mystery story. But, where does the crow come in? Well, therein lies the comedy, complete with a pun in the end as a payoff …

***

Edgar sat at his desk, and the crow perched on his stand near the window, looking over Edgar’s shoulder.

Edgar Allen Poe the Raven

Illustration by Édouard Manet 1875

“Once upon a midnight dreary…,” Edgar recited, holding his quill meaningfully over the parchment.

“What the hell does that mean?” asked the Crow.

“Reggie, I’m trying to write something. Do you mind just being quiet for just a while?”

“Quiet? Dude, I’m a crow. I don’t do quiet, man.”

“Look, Reggie. You’re supposed to be here to, y’know, inspire me to explore the dark side of the human imagination.”

“Hey! I’m doing my part. And all you can come up with is ‘Once upon a midnight dreary’? Again: what the hell does that mean?”

“It’s just a line to establish the setting, and the mood. It’s a proven technique. But, what would you know about that?”

“I know what I like. And that sucks.” Continue reading

Indian Summer

Detective Jack McCoy coughed into handkerchief. He wasn’t sick. Not really. He was smoking too much. It was a bad habit that came up every time he worked a tough case; along with a whole slew of other bad habits: Chain-smoking, mostly just to feel the warmth of the lighter on his fingers for those few seconds; drinking to give himself an illusion of heat, even as his capillaries opened up to release their steam through his pores; Carousing with the girls down at O’Toole’s pub who were always up for a party, just so long as you were willing to pay for the privilege.

The heat they could generate was worth it. Hot – but still fleeting.

Now that he thought about it, he didn’t really need the heat after all. He felt… warm. Feverish, almost. But old habits died hard. Continue reading

The Girl On The Other Side

Black Oak Tree

Photo: Jason Sturner

Assignment: A fantasy romance

The word “fantasy” has connotations when it comes to popular stories; elves, armour, capes, quests, maps, and places and names that are hard to pronounce. But, luckily it’s a pretty open-ended term, too. So, I decided to do a sort of W.P Kinsella meets Frank Capra style fantasy tale.

As for the romance part, I figure the engine of all romance stories hinges on the theme of choices; “which road should I take? What happens if I choose to embrace love? What happens if I don’t?” So, that theme made me think about another one that is equally compelling to me; meeting a version of oneself that chose a different road where love is concerned, and the things that they might want to say about the results.

***

On a quiet Sunday, I took a walk into the scruffy woods at the end of my street. I had inherited the house from my Dad who passed on a few years ago; a little post-war bungalow I’d grown up in. He’d loved my mother quietly and unassumingly. But, it was an intense love. They loved me too, their only child whom they had very late after a number of adventures together as a couple.

And when Mom passed away just after I finished school, I think he felt a level of loneliness and a sense of bereavement that he never really got over. Despite this sense of loss, I think he also felt a sense of gratitude for having experienced the kind of love that I think he knew that not everyone gets to have. I think he wanted that for me, too, although he never came out and said it. But, I’ve never really been the kind of guy to get a lot of female attention, or one to seek it. I prefer my books, the garden in the backyard, and walks in between the trees alone. For me, they’ve always been the safer bets. I’d leave the romance to Catherine and Heathcliffe, and maybe to the memory of my parents, too.

But, that decision was about to become way more complicated.

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Soza’s Well

The Sea

Photo: ahisgett

The São Augusto was a Portuguese carrack, setting sail from Cape Verde in 1550 with a payload of Senegalese banana plants. It had been one of many such ships to transport banana plants from Portuguese Africa into what is now modern Brazil. It had a modest crew of fifty men, all of whom disappeared completely along with the ship in one of the most mysterious nautical misadventures in the history of colonial Brazil, the details of which  was sure to interest those who dealt in items of historical importance. The ship had been spotted near French Guyana before it made its way southward along the coast. But, it never made its destination at the port of São Vicente. The ship had carried more than banana plants. It carried two additional treasures; the promised soon-to-be bride of a banana plantation owner’s son, and her dowry of jewels and gold.

Jewels and gold.

Centuries later, just last week, these details were sent to Guy Chalmbers’ office in Boston from an address in São Paulo. They came from a Raul Merenda, a legal representative of the very respected Soza family. Chalmbers was a finder, a freelancer for museums, universities, and sometimes private collectors who were interested in acquiring historical data, and most importantly artifacts. Most academics, and curators didn’t like to deal with the likes of him. He drew a sizeable fee for his uncanny ability to produce results, and most knew it. But, he was crass, with a cloud of ill-omen about him. Usually, his patrons acquired his services off of the books, and through very specific contacts. He barely existed in daylight. He did his deals in the shadows.

The Sozas knew where the jewels and gold were, the letter said. They also knew the whole story of the ship and her crew, with documents to prove it. Chalmbers could sell the information to the highest bidder, and then take the gold for himself. It was unusual. There was normally a middle man for a deal like this. He hadn’t expected a letter from the Soza family in Brazil delivered to his office directly. But, it was a simple job. He would take it, not just because of how lucrative it would be. But, because he was curious as to why the Sozas had contacted him personally. What was in the deal for them? Continue reading

My Ticket Out

Papaya

Photo: H. Zell

When the plane hit the water, I must have been unconscious. And how I got to shore is anyone’s guess. But, I got there alive. The sand was collecting in my underwear in the surf, pushed up there through my pant legs. Then, I guess I must have pulled myself further onto the bone-white beach. I don’t remember how I did that either. Maybe the tide went out, and I stayed where I was. I don’t know. All I could hear was the surf. And then, I fell asleep again, for I don’t know how long.

When I woke up again, it was just before dawn. And then suddenly, the hot sun was up sending down a cascade of morning light that under any other circumstances would have made it another glorious day in Paradise. I rolled over, and without much pain, except for a headache, which wasn’t unusual for me first thing in the morning. It was a miracle. There was no broken bones, no open wounds, no lost limbs. It was incredible. I was alive.

But, I didn’t know where I was. Continue reading

Ghost Clown

“And I would have gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for you meddling kids,” I snarled. That fucking college kid with the perfect blonde hair and movie star teeth just gave me a shrug as the rest of his hippy friends and their dog bundled into their acid-trip themed purple-green van… like they didn’t care that they had just ruined everything. Like it was no big deal.

Where the hell had these idiots come from, anyway? How close I’d come to getting my hands on the Bandoucie brothers’ gold! Continue reading