Freddie Redlake fled the north and came south to the city. He had to. It was that or be beaten to death, or be starved for days on end. It was all to teach him a lesson, his foster father said. And there were worse things too that happened that Freddie didn’t like to think about.
He was an orphan. His mother was found out in the snow a long time ago. Seventeen years ago. That’s how old Freddie was when he came to the city. She died. But Freddie didn’t. No one knew who his mother was, although he had the story of how she was found from the people at the hospital. No one knew who his father was, either. He was given the name of the town he was born in, Red Lake. Freddie wasn’t sure who chose his first name. He liked it well enough. But he wanted a real name, not just some made up name. Maybe that’s why Freddie was so angry so much. That and the foster homes, and what happened in them.
One night he ran away. He and a friend Bill hitchhiked down to the city. They were going to get jobs there. They were going to maybe start a band or something, or get a DJ gig. There were lots of places to do that down south, they’d thought. But nothing really came of it. Bill took up with some girl and they moved to another neighborhood. Freddie partied as much as he could once he got a job in a convenience store that paid in cash. But, he didn’t have the job for long because once he got his money, he partied a little too much. His boss with the funny name, Mr. Klinkenbeard, caught him messing with the till one night. It was a moment of weakness. Mr. Klinkenbeard fired Freddie on the spot and that was that. Pretty soon, he lost his room at the Stanhope Hotel. Then he found The Squat. What choice did he have?
Dr. Ray told him not to go down to The Squat. Dr. Ray had been a professor at the University, Freddie’d heard. Freddie wasn’t sure which one. That was a long time ago when Dr. Ray was young. But Dr. Ray drank a lot, and pretty soon like Freddie he’d been fired, and his money ran out. So did his wife, and she took Dr. Ray’s kids with her and moved out of the province. Dr. Ray told Freddie about his wife and kids directly. He wasn’t sure where she’d gone. Maybe back east somewhere. Dr. Ray wasn’t too sure. His memory wasn’t too good. He has epilepsy too, and sometimes he hears voices. That’s OK. Freddie liked Dr. Ray. Continue reading
Mark put the phone down and ran.
He didn’t run out of the front door to his car. He ran out the back, across his small yard and flung himself over the fence. He ran across the muddy field, lit only by moonlight because the sky was clear. His heart beat like a drum, pumping acid and sorrow around and around, into his head and back again. And suddenly, he heard the footfalls of shadowy pursuers behind him.
They couldn’t be real. It couldn’t be true.
Mark ran anyway. He could no longer tell what was real, and what was not. Continue reading
Raymond rode the moonbeams from the city until he arrived at the abandoned house in rural Upstate New York where Tiberius his Sire and the rest of The Family lived. It was Nightthanks – the most important family gathering on the vampire calendar.
image: Sudhamshu Hebbar
Into the house, then down into the cellar, and through a secret door in the floor. Then, a spiral staircase down into the dark, across an expansive subterranean gallery, and into the shadowless corridors of the Bloodline of Tiberius Aquilus Undermansion into the dining room. There they all waited, Tiberius at the head. Alba Agrippina his First-Bride was on his right, Brother Stephen on the left, and an assortment of cousins lined up on either side of a long, ebony table.
On the table lay three humans, still alive, and each attached to elaborate siphons and tubes that led to each place-setting. It was a sumptuous repast by the standards of most vampires. Continue reading
In 1985, my first girlfriend Cara died down at Bascombe Park in the old gazebo. Then, almost thirty years later, I walked down there again. And there Cara was, smiling at me as if nothing had happened.
adapted from an original image by brep
We were sixteen when we first met at a dance that they threw at the community center downtown. It was like something clicked inside my head when I first saw her. That was it. It was love. And everyone knew it, too. We were one of those couples. Near the end of high school we were still together, still in love in a way that only people that young can be.
It was the night before our school formal, with graduation looming, Cara had been accepted into Harvard, I got into MIT and we were both going to move to Boston. There’d been a party, and we slipped out. We fled to Bascombe Park and to our favourite place, the old gazebo. That’s where it all ended. And where it all began again years later. Continue reading
Assignment: “Against All Odds”
Now, this is a theme to be found in a lot of heroic tales from Beowulf to The Expendables. But, I wondered about how this theme plays out in the life of someone who only thinks he’s a hero, but who is actually a self-mythologizing egotist. What would be the most unlikely thing someone like that might face and triumph (wait for it) against all odds?
Well, I thought that it might be this: self-awareness, and the ability and willingness to change his ways. And being a self-mythologizing egotist, I figured his revelations would be steeped in metaphor. Of course, the fact that it takes place under a river with his lungs filling up with water might make things interesting where the odds are concerned, too …
When Jane left, I took the car, drove it to the Gateway Bridge just outside of downtown Oakview, got out, and threw myself over the side into the Spencer River.
I went a little bit crazy, I guess. But, as I felt the wind rushing upward at me as I fell, a spark lit up from somewhere inside, up from the inky darkness of my mind, or my heart. I found that in spite of it all, I wanted to live.
So, I had something of a problem to solve. By the time I hit the icy churning waters, I was only just beginning to think about the fact that I didn’t even know where to start.
Lester McNab stepped out into the dirty sunshine through the blurry glass doors of the UpTown Mall. After his weekend shift, he smelled of fat from the fryer, which he’d stooped over for the past seven hours at the local ChickenLicken outlet. Still, it was money, although not much. Once Steve got there in the car to pick him up, they’d swing past Daryl’s house and buy a baggie, then go back to Steve’s, get baked, and watch UFC. Then, Lester would watch Steve play X-Box for the rest of the night.
It was Saturday.
He’d got the job at ChickenLicken just after he dropped out of high school a year before. School just wasn’t for him. He just didn’t get the point of all those books, the math, the science. He couldn’t figure out how it applied to him, or to life in Oakview. That’s what really counted, right? What else was there?
Lester didn’t consider himself to be very smart. But, he was smart enough to know that he’d do just like his parents had done. They grew up here. He was growing up here. They’d got long-term jobs here, with benefits and everything. So would he, although since the plant shut down, that wasn’t a sure thing. But what was sure to Lester is that he would die here.
That is, unless something like a miracle happened.
Sitting in the park on a sunny day, Frederico picked up the white pawn in his gnarled hand and placed it gently two squares away. Then, he did the same with the black pawn on the other side of the board.
He’d learned to play chess in Cuba. His father taught him when he was a boy. Years and years later, after Marco died, he taught himself to play both sides, upside down. Now at 87, he was certain that he was unbeatable.
image: Paolo Neo
Frederico wore a green fedora, and a purple scarf around his neck. His overcoat was olive, and his shoes were mirror-shined. His ash wood cane with the silver handle leaned against the stone chess table. He wore fingerless gloves so that he could get a good grip on each piece, loving each one as it played its alotted part.
A cool breeze blew. It was Autumn in New York, just like the song.
I took the piece of wedding cake out of the freezer. Then, I put it on a plate on the kitchen table. I put it there so that I could watch it melt.
Because, my wife has left.
Assignment: A travelogue
The thing about traveling is that one’s experience of any given journey largely depends on who one is. If one is a child, than the most mundane journey can be imbued with breathtaking wonder. And if one is an adult in desperate and overwhelming trouble, a time among the most glorious of landscapes can be like a season in hell.
What if these two perspectives are represented on the same journey, with one holding the hope of escape for another? This story starts off with a fatherly promise of a journey into a fantastical wonderland, and ends up as a trip to the underworld instead.
It started in the gloom of an early morning in 1975. The moonlight streamed through the window and threw slabs of hard-cut, ghostly illumination on the wall in my room. I was six years old, just a little girl in my pajamas and staring up at my father from my bed. He wore his overcoat, a valise in his hand, his face hidden in shadow under his hat.
My father spoke in a hoarse whisper that I suppose if I heard now I would judge as being pregnant with desperation.
“Sweetheart, wake up! It’s Daddy. We’re going on vacation starting right now, just you and me!”
“Where are we going? Where’s Mommy?” I replied in a whisper of my own. My own voice sounded small to me in that moonlit room.
“Your mother can’t come with us on this trip. She’s too busy, Sweetheart. It’s just you and me this time!”
“But, it’s dark. It’s nighttime! I’m sleepy!”
“It’s the perfect time to go where we’re going – to Fairyland!”
Assignment: A story told from an animal’s point of view
We often forget that despite our intellect and our grand ambitions and achievements as a species, we are animals, too. Maybe we’ve forgotten on purpose. But why? What are the advantages? Well, we get to pretend that the world we live in is external to us as something to be used, rather than something to be truly be a part of. But, what do we lose in the process?
The use of chimpanzees in the space program by the early 1960s seemed to be a good platform to explore this idea; a creature of the forest shot into space, as far away from his home as it’s possible to be. What does this reveal about humanity and our pursuits to escape our own origins?
I have dreamed of the green world all my life.
I do not remember being there. But, my family was born there, many tens of thousands of years ago. When I dream, I am with them. When I am awake with the smooth ones, I am alone. I am only a child.
I am surrounded by smooth surfaces here. Everything around me is the same. I do not like it here. I do not like the smooth ones, either. And they do not like me. All but one. He is the one with the shining eyes. I call him that in my mind – Shining Eyes. He calls me by a name that is only mine when I am awake. When I am asleep and I am in the green world with my family, I go by another name. It is my true name.
I wonder if Shining Eyes has a name like that. I wonder if he dreams as I do. Continue reading