Alone In The City

So hard to find a neighborhood this cute and sweet, a home so warm and loving. She would fill it with the scent of rising bread soon. She set the box of grandma’s jelly glasses on the counter, dropped off by Mom to replace the disposable plastic cups she kept washing and reusing, though they warped in the ancient dishwasher.

She went to the silverware drawer for a knife to slash the packing tape when she noticed the cabinet. Well now, why did Mom put the cast iron in the pantry, when she stores it in the cabinet under the silverware at home?

She opened the doors, wincing at a waft of must from soggy boxes that seemed to have soaked up many leaks over the years, corners caked with unidentifiable paper glued to the paint with age. Something that was maybe the remains of old rat’s nests, swept out but never scrubbed, the muck allowed to go wild, creeping slowly across the walls.

How had they missed this? Her parents and brothers had all pitched in when she moved, including following her mother’s demand they scrub the home from top to bottom before unloading the truck. She herself had gone over each room when unpacking and reorganizing several times. She’s been here two months. How had she not seen this?

Her discomfort at her lack of attention passed. She simply rolled up her sleeves, and started scrubbing. Sticky rubber clung to the hairs on her arm, sweat leaked into her eye, peroxide sizzled her worries away, and she forgot about it.

It was months before baking passed through her mind again. She almost remembered the desire to fill her home with the scent of baked goods had passed through her mind before. She cleared a spot out in her pantry and filled it with flour, sugar, packets of flash dried yeast. Pastry spices as well, the cinnamon, allspice, and vanilla that grace the cabinets of every truly loved home.

She never remembered that she had done this as well, had unpacked everything before opening her mother’s delivered heirloom glasses, right before she found the cabinet, just after the thing skittered from one side of the kitchen to the other. The scent of spices was so pleasing after the scent of mold so long, it could not resist.

The kitchen served many young lives in the heart of that city. Lives that soon distorted, fell apart, their hopes faltering and growing weaker, while the shadows in the home grew stronger. Lives soon shrouded in isolation and growing instability as they fail to cope with growing pressures. Eventually, foreclosure came to them as well, keeping the price down so that another young life could afford it. Young lives are drawn to the warm, comfortable home like moths, a haven so cute and sweet in the cold and unforgiving city.

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Grim Shadows

We were born when the land was ice and fire. We watched ancient forests rise from melting snow and trickle across mountains. We watched with the trees when humanity came in long boats, gaunt with hunger.

They followed iron and fertile lands to plow under for their own use, driving away wildlife that would share and help nourish the land, as it was always meant to be.

They invaded our tunnels to steal our metals, forging them into weapons to use against us within our own homes. In turn, we found their young to be quite tasty, especially when their life force was still pure, and their meat sweetened with candies.

We are children of the earth itself, and tied to her energies, her lifecycle, the rise and fall of all creatures and plants around us. We are made of them: the predator, the prey, the herb.

The sweet, ever-reaching lives and souls of plants, in constant competition for the sun’s love, choking each other in shadows with subtle chemical warfare, tasting of the sun-boiled passion of the very patient in their strategy for survival, death only giving way to a new form of competition as they unite with souls that consume them.

Becoming one with hearts that beat the wild passions of hunter and hunted from birth to death, one with an ancient dance only somewhat younger than the moon, one as passionate in death as it is in life.

The grim fire in their being is the fire in our eyes, the tempest at the core of our mother’s horrible heart.

When humans came, we took on the flavor of their lives. We changed, we shaped to include them and their new role in the dance of the lives around them. We embraced their passion for war and precious metals and stone, we took on the shapes of the terrible horrors whispered of in the dark.

It was they who shaped us, stern and ominous in form, they who needed us to cause their children to feel uncertain terrors in the dark, that they may implore the love of gods and therefore be saved in their fear. We performed our duties out of love for our place in the world around us.

But they came for us, and we warred and struggled until my kin were battered down to scattered scraps of civilization that chose to hide rather than continue fighting.

But we still know our place in the world, we have never forgotten our purpose, and we continue to fulfil the needs of a creator too afraid to admit the depths of their need for darkness.

So it is that we have always been here, watching from shadows as mankind conquered lands and turned them into rising monuments of stone and steel, machines that feed on the dead of giants and vomit viscous poisons into the waters of the earth.

The violent hearts of mankind gave way to a greed and desire to dominate that drove many earth spirits into another realm entirely. My kin in our various forms often choose to stay. The dribbling blood of ancient reptiles is no poison to us.

Though we find we are at another danger. It seems our forms are now intimate with lore of an age that is fading, and we are fading with it, becoming no more than mere shadows, easily dismissed as flickering in the lights.

Worse, innocent meat untainted by the chemical foods of mortals is becoming difficult to find, and children are not as afraid of shadows, not as easy to lead into the dark, not as willing to accept sweets. Many do not even see us, dismissing our touch as a chill.

We’ve had to adapt or perish. We are learning to tolerate the disruptive energies of the machines and poisons, allowing us to venture closer into cities.

Chemical meats tainted with addiction and pollution still weaken us, but their darkened energies allow us to consume fear. When a human dies in the sweet agony of abject terror, we gain the ability to absorb the same nourishment from the atmosphere, as well as the savory and tangy notes of despair, guilt, rage.

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We hide from the sun in alleys and under highways, areas where the underside of the city begins to corrode and decay.

We follow addicts and prostitutes, angry teenagers with their colorful hieroglyphics, curious children wandering in the edges of their school yards where weeds overgrow lots full of junk and treasure.

They are easy targets, those who are willing to wander.

We follow them into shadows where we whisper to them to act on the dark aspects of their own hearts. We whisper that their greatest terrors are about to come true.

Their souls see us as they would fear us to be. We stand formless in the shadows, but we take on the shapes of their nightmares.

We gain strength, and if we are lucky, we can manipulate the human into death. Only just enough meat needs to be consumed as can pass off for the work of rodents, then as that death slowly decays into the shadows and the legends grow of hauntings and missing people, we grow strong enough to touch the world again.

The lovers make the sweetest meats, as we toy with them and make them turn on each other, pushing them to preform atrocities that will forever torment them in the early hours of the morning. We pit brother against brother, mother against child. A lovely aroma of lingering despair that helps the area to grow fertile and refreshing.

Akin to the way that human tribes turn a forest into land for only their own consumption, we can now spice the air of cities for our own desires. Eventually, someone will die in terror, and we will claim that victory as our own and reap the benefits of the magic it can fuel.

Some of us are changing again. Some of us grow to hunger the despair we bring to a haunted life more than the sweetness of a pure heart, and they find they can move even further from the shadows, and it is easier to touch the world.

Once again, we will change to suit you, to fulfil your ever-present desire for endless sorrow and desolation. We will fulfil our purpose. We will do anything for you.

We love you, and the art you bring the world.

 

P.S. – This is a scrap of world building, a byproduct of my Raven’s Egg thing. One of a few things that happened when I mentally stuck a troll under an overpass for an active setting exercise.

The Hunter

Is it just me or do you miss getting drunk around a campfire and telling true ghost stories without a care in the world for such things as “facts” or “credible sources”? Okay, sometimes the campfire was the living room coffee table, but there was always beer.

I was very happy to discover that I could eavesdrop on someone else’s barstool ramblings of the mysteries of the universe, complete with tangents and amusing life stories. So, shout out to the Rigor Mortis Paranormal podcast for the nostalgia, and for the inspiration for this little bit of flash.

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This little ditty is inspired by Episode 26: Phantom Killer. It’s not one of the Raven’s Eggs, just something I started writing in Tulsa that the move interrupted.

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The Hunter

The tap, tap of my shoes cheers me, and it sets my grit against the crumbling buildings that have too many street lights broken. The shadows have things larger than rats and stray dogs, I know that, but I am vigilant.

He still he grabs me, and it doesn’t work when I twist my arms the way the self-defense videos showed, and I have no time to react before the soul crushing whump thud crunch of the plastic lined trunk traps me. I can barely hear the engine over my panic as regrets scream in my ears and ‘I told you so’s laugh at me in the dark.

After the eternity of a nightmare, a hand comes for me, jerks my hair hard enough to tumble me crashing to the dirt and gravel below. Slow, sensual laughter runs a steady beat under something that must be my screams, can’t breathe, taste blood in my throat and maybe I will scream myself to death.

Stones claw my legs and back as I grab his hands above my head, trying to keep my scalp from peeling away like it wants to, and he drags me.

I see an old barn and feel sudden hope I might be rescued, relieved and excited, but I see there is no help around except for three frightened children. They can’t be hurt, I pray for them, that they would not be seen by him and would not follow us as the dark woods at the edge of the field that swallow me and the monster. I pray for all of us, to anyone that will hear.

Brambles and sharp broken sticks tear at me, and will it be the man who kills me or some snake? My body will not rest in a soft lined casket, and my soul screams because I know I will be eaten by squirming things and creatures will chew on my bones.

I stop thinking when I see the wolves. The largest one stands with his eyes locked with the monster, his low song of anger smothering the man’s chilling laughter.

I can’t tell if I fainted or not and a mist is forming right where the man can’t see. A woman in the mist reaches her hand to me, pours into me, and I am swimming, falling, flying, but also my body is moving, and I am somehow free of him and standing up.

I feel a line of strength running through my body and it dances and a flick sends my leg under the man, sends him tumbling through the air, but cat-like he lands in a crouch.

I start moving, I see the flash of silver in his hand, but I am already disarming him. Then, somehow, I have my hand in his hair, holding his face locked on mine. I raise a hand and strike as if to punch, but there is a sliding wet pop and my fingers are curled inside the sockets of his eyes.

He screams, part of me screams with him in revulsion and terror, the wolves howl in delight, and I smile someone else’s smile with someone else’s satisfaction in my heart, and I step back to watch the wolves leap in and carry him off into the dark.

I flick my wrist and a wave of something within me rushes down the broken trail, setting broken things back into place, pushing the blood into the earth. The moment of horror erases itself from the land.

With a sigh she steps from me, and the woman in the mist smiles. A voice of starlight whispers through me as she speaks, “Child, you have done well and being weaker is not your fault, but you will be stronger if you find the warrior in your soul. Let your instincts guide you. I might not be around to hear your prayers next time.”

Then she blows me a kiss, wiggles her fingers goodbye, and with a parting flick of her wrist I suddenly know how to find my way out of the woods and to safety.

The Loop

I almost lost the trail. Here it is, a bit of pink thread, the right shade for the child’s skirt on a tangle of rusted junk. The sun threatens to set, warm light giving a soft glow to the glitters of glass along the sides of the alley. Which way?

The old man returns, stepping out from the shadows. I suddenly smell old paper and hear something rustling. The stern lines on his face are softer, looking oddly gentle. Tired, maybe.

“I’m close, I can feel it.” I say.

He looks down the alley, glancing over his shoulder at the decrepit house with the creaking swing set, then back ahead of himself, his eyes resting on a bus stop’s advertisement, some hotline number for those in crisis. “You need to know where to go.”

“We’ll find her. She went one way or the other, she wouldn’t have had a lot of time before dawn to get to her mama.”

Pa smiled softly, “Well, when you find it, it will feel like you’ve been there before.” He’s gone again. He seems to be fading. Doesn’t seem to make as much sense as he used to. Unless he means that’s part of their magic he told me about. That charming thing they do.

I look at the old swing set. I bet the little leech used to play on that. I step carefully through the cut fence. I can feel them. This place hums with suck, a sickly aura that saps you right down.

I look through the little broken window on the door, down a hall stained dark and trashed by squatters. For a second, I hear a woman screaming, and have a flash, a weird impression of a beautiful woman standing in the middle of the hallway, a child hiding in the corner behind her, the woman holding a baseball bat, her face distorted with rage and hatred. Must be haunted.

I enter the hall, start looking around for places you might be able to hide from the sun. Basement seems too obvious a choice to really be safe, but I’m not so sure these things run on a fully working brain. They seem kind of like animals, might be working on instinct alone, brain trashed when they stop being human. Steps are probably in the kitchen.

Kitchen seems familiar. Did I dream of this tile? That’s right. The old man told me. The right place will feel like deja-vous. I pull out my Maglite and start down the stairs. There they are. Two piles of freshly turned earth. Just like I knew there would be. I grab my stake, and head toward the shallow grave of the bitch monster who killed my wife and daughter, the one I will kill or die trying.

So, I’m Going Adventuring With Ghosts Soon

I fully intend to make moving to New York City a giant adventure. The thrill of culture shock will just provide so much creative ammunition, there’s no way I can pass certain things up.

It looks like I will most likely end up there around the end of September, making my wild rumpus due to begin in the month of October. My absolutely, hands down, most favoriteist month of the year.

Also, it happens to be the perfect month to start the adventures I’m currently planning. I have a mad desire to go soak in the atmosphere of some historical locations that also happen to be haunted. I want to go indulge my inner goth child who never grew up, hang out where Dylan Thomas drank himself to death, and go see Poe’s haunted banister.

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I’ve loved listening to true ghost story podcasts and Stephen King’s Bag of Bones while working on this, little dark plot bunny shadows keep skittering off to the murky corners of my journal. The thought of walking this map in October is just dark chocolate icing on a pumpkin spice cupcake with bat sprinkles.

Another great thing about all these upcoming outings, I get to brush off my photography skills. My eyes suck, so I set photography aside as a serious pursuit long ago. I like my little free Craig’s list camera for family pictures and some nature treasure hunting, but now I’m throwing tourism into the mix with a decent budget, it’s time to brush off my skills and start researching cameras for the awesome upgrade.

So, I’m designing a couple of photo safaris for myself, some of them adventure related. Around the house, the thought of a straight up domestic set of photos bores me, so I’m going to think of ways to inspire stories with what I do. Like, I don’t know about staging a still life with fruit, but maybe a subtle implication of murder.

I’m not exactly sure how such a project will help me take better photos of haunted banisters and the Statue of Liberty’s toe, but I’m sure it will help me somehow in an important way and therefore it must be done.

I’m just so excited about all the possibilities coming up for getting out of the house, you don’t even understand. My old friends from high school would. They knew all about how I grew up a chronic runaway, and how even when I was happy I would still want to wander so badly that I frequently left parties for long walks until I drove the itchy impulses out of my legs. Sometimes they came with, but usually they didn’t because those slackers could never keep up.

I’ve lived in Tulsa for over a decade. I moved here in a state of crisis and poverty, and my main forms of transportation have been my feet and the public bus system. Going to the grocery store has been “getting out of the house” for years. Years of years, even. I feel like a minister’s daughter about to head off to a co-ed university in another state.