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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Enchanted: 9 of Swords

I couldn’t sleep with the need to see you, so I have come. You’ve held me captive from the moment we met, my mind is a prison dancing with your image, your song, your laugh. My thoughts know nothing else.

You are an artist in your seduction, flirting and flickering around me. Preening, then darting off coyly. You trap me with your enchantment, like a nymph, a will-o-the-wisp.

You gaze at me gently, your skin pales as your love trickles from your fingers in delicate lacework of red, pools at your feet that shiver with every drip, every tiny giggling plink.

Your graceful fingers reach out to touch me, then shy away, beckoning and flirting, the smile glimmering in your eyes as you pout and pretend to be upset, candlelight shining from your manacles like the brightest gems.

But soon you give way to me, relaxing against me in our embrace, weak to your desire. Your hips sway to the rhythm of your chains across the concrete, your movements rich with your love of turning all the world into a song as we dance together in this prison I have come to love.

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Archeon Tarot Prompt: 9 of Swords. 196 words. More tarot stories.

Lover’s Leap

I always thought you had rescued me from the chaotic darkness, with your graceful light. I admired you for how well you knew all the rules, that social dance that overwhelms me. With just a few flashes of your smile and steady handshake, you waltzed us right into the large house on the hill that makes mother green with envy.

You’ve always known what to say, what to do. I’ve never seen you angry. Ever. Not even when I ruined the stove. But there was always something I could never pin down, something that always made me wonder about how perfect your responses were, something that left me feeling like you might not be fully sincere, but I tried to have hope and tell myself it was my past making me nervous.

Now that I am to be a mother though, I feel some other instinct is making me watch you a little too carefully. I think maybe I’m beginning to see what I’ve been seeing all along. The young women that have been on the news have all been so familiar, in a way that bothered me but I tried to dismiss.

I asked about my favorite cashier that I hadn’t seen for a while, hoping she had made it into the school she applied to, and I found she was one of the missing. I just hadn’t recognized her out of context. It opened my eyes. So many faces around me just aren’t there anymore. We knew them all, didn’t we? Shadows from the corner of my life, girls I noticed yet never saw.

And then last night, the blood in your hair, but I could not see a cut. I went through our closet today, and there are too many of your clothes missing that I can’t find in the laundry. Were they burned? Dropped in a river?

I can tell that you know what I’ve realized. I see my time is getting shorter. So I came here, were you proposed to me while we watched the sun set over the ocean. The overlook where the waters are too rough for swimming, were fishermen won’t sail.

I look at my own hands on the wheel and I remember how true it felt when you said I was nothing without you. I could not survive. You are right. You’ve clipped my wings to ensure it. You will not shape your daughter as you have shaped me.

We idle the car near the edge of the world and watch the sun set, and chat pleasantly while you try to figure out exactly how much I know. I smile, and evade as my heart fills with sorrow. As the sun blows a kiss to greet the oncoming night, I let my foot slide and we drive.

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Archeon Tarot Prompt: Three of Cups, reversed. 466 words. More tarot stories.

P.S. – This is my Archeon Deck. Much more serious, dark, and beautiful than my tongue in cheek zombie deck. Perfect to explore the dark hearts of human monsters while I dive into my research on serial killers and enjoy whole new levels of understanding on my latest Criminal Minds marathon.

Our Children

We sat together, you and I, with our families. We cheered for our children as they threw their caps in the air. We clapped until our hands were numb and we roared ourselves hoarse. Your son embraced my daughter, and they ran together into the night to celebrate.

They ran as far as they could run, to the edges of the world. She followed him as he ran, he was her guiding light. Why he ran, well, you likely know more than I.

They ran, and they stayed, and they put down roots. From such a distance, all looked gleaming, and happy, and lovely. No one knew.

He took her compassionate heart, and stewed it in pain, then slowly sliced off a little bit at a time to savor for his own needs, watching her writhe in his shadow.

I used to bring her to this park. When I heard she was gone, I would come here. I thought it would help.

I like it more when it is empty. We only have the crickets and dewdrops to keep us company. I don’t have to feel the echos of laughter and clinking of swings as chains binding my heart. I like it as it is now, when the streets are as empty as the churches.

That will change soon, when the dawn calls to the sleeping children and the families start moving about. I will leave you for now, but you will have company soon. Someone will come along and wipe the dew from your eyelashes, the blood from your mouth. Someone will clean you up before you go off into the darkness to be greeted by the monster son you made.

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Zombie Tarot prompt: Justice. More tarot stories.

P.S. – As part of my research, I’ve been studying Sexual Homicide: Patterns and Motives by John E. Douglas, Ann W. Burgess, and Robert K. Ressler. If the names are familiar, it’s because they’re bigwig FBI profilers. It reads a bit dry at times, it’s a little like an academic paper written for the general public.

However, it has the lovely side effect of making a Criminal Minds marathon into an audience participation event, and I’m having a blast with my “research”. In honor of this bliss, I’m going to start using another deck next week and start exploring more human monsters.

Savor: Ten of Cups

Horseradish. That would be perfect, just enough to give the other flavors a bit more punch. Usually she prefers pork seasonings, but the occasional hint of something good with red meat helps bring out the earthier tones of the dish.

Grandma would disapprove of such additions to her recipes, designed to be simple and enhance the natural flavor. Unfortunately, the difficulty of the hunt lately made it so that meat was rare, every effort must me made to maximize enjoyment. The prey were learning to protect themselves much better than they did in Grandma’s day.

She hummed as she worked, slicing turnips while a thigh soaked in the marinade. So many people undervalued a good roasted turnip. The flavor was so strong when raw, you would never expect it to turn so savory and mellow.

The repetitive task allowed her mind to wander, and she considered the satisfying catch and kill behind her. This one had been taken in his sleep, always better for the meat. She didn’t know why horror movies and the like talked about fear enhancing the flavor of meat, in her experience it made it taste a little off. This one never saw a thing coming, he was nice and cozy in his sleeping bag.

The park rangers are cracking down like wildfire, but they don’t know how to track something like her. They look for their trails on the ground, not in the trees. They would be aware, and so would the campers, but there will always be one or two that consider themselves to be safe enough to stray.

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Zombie Tarot Prompt: Ten of Cups. More tarot stories.

The Student

The love songs of the night gave way to the chatter of birds as the girl made her way across the prairie to the hut. Dew drops reflected the overcast sky, turning the field into a dreamlike silver, cut through with a green brush stroke winding behind her as her toes tickled the dew to the ground.

She watched a butterfly opening its wings in the rising dawn, fluttering lazily, enjoying a few more minutes in its silky floral bed. She was tempted to tease it on to her finger, but catching butterflies was a child’s game and she was too old for such things now.

Father had stopped howling. He was likely either dead or sleeping. The virus didn’t grant him much peace, she wasn’t sure which one she preferred.

Inside the hut, the smell had quieted down, grown more earthen. She would have expected something sour. Like when fruit turns to wine. This smelled more like mushrooms. He sat quietly, observing her as she observed him. He wasn’t breathing.

“I promised Mother I wouldn’t kill you. Do you remember Mother?” He was still enough to be made of stone. Except for those eyes, which were darker now. The irises were larger, large enough to be seeing rather well in the dim light. That explained why the monster had stuck to the shadows, his eyes were likely sensitive.

She opened the curtains, letting the dawn creep closer to the thing that used to be her father. The chains rattled as he shifted his weight away from the light, but there was no other reaction. Interesting. That implies physical distress, but not at a critical level.

“We never did spend a lot of time together, Father. I think I will remedy that. I propose a partnership. You shall teach me exactly how to defeat the plague. I pray I don’t cause you too much discomfort in the process.”

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Zombie Tarot Prompt: Page of Swords. More tarot flash stories over here.

Knight of Swords

“You do not seem to understand to whom you speak. I am my father’s sword. I am the one who crushed the backs of your elders beneath my war horses. I am the one who took your maidens and lit your homes aflame.

Look at your people. They should be throwing stones and curses at me, they should be crying out for my blood, as I have torn right through the heart of their village and left nothing standing.

Yet they are silent. Their eyes are upon you. They feel relief, not torment. It is not my blood they wish, I am the one who granted these people their freedom.”

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Zombie Tarot Prompt: Knight of Swords. More tarot stories.

Run

“Stop! Look at her! Look at her in the light!” I could see his face, he was older than I thought. I doubt he remembers where he got all those battle scars.

I turned to her, not trying to obey him, but wanting to make some comment, some suggestion, that I forgot as soon as I saw her face. I couldn’t understand what I saw, she was beautiful as always, but there was something creepy and whispering, like a mask was cracking and something gray and shadowy was underneath, but I didn’t actually see anything wrong with her at all.

She raised a hand and touched my face. “Shh, he speaks in lies and can make people see things.” Her whisper sent thrills of delight down my spine, and her touch was warm like sun glowing through honey. I calmed, and she grabbed my hand, and we ran into the shadows.

As we ran down the crumbling stone tunnel, our footsteps reverberated in my head with my heartbeat, weaving together to make a beat of panic, and I realized I could almost hear someone singing in the background. Was that here, was it real?

I realized I couldn’t remember what we were running from, or where we were running to. Then we left the tunnel and the moonlight hit her skin, and she was so beautiful. It didn’t matter anymore, so I followed.

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Zombie Tarot Prompt: Justice, and the Lovers. This week I decided to do a two-card draw to represent the predator and the prey. More tarot stories.

Regret

We never would have taken him for a witch. He seemed so steady, a reliable type, paying his bills on time and mowing his lawn. He never had any kids, his wife died young. He was real generous with the neighbor kids, helping out some to get their kids nice stuff.

We figured with all that hard work and no family to support, he probably could do that kind of thing because he had a stash of money somewhere. A guy like that probably invests and does responsible things with his money. He came home early when we were looking for a safe.

He came home right after we found some kind of altar in the basement, and he kind of came home by popping right into place, in this little circle on the floor right behind us. Scared the fuck out of us, but Kim, she never was one to freeze in fear, and she just started moving and got her knife right in his eye socket before I knew what was going on.

He didn’t die right away, he started twitching and all the lights flickered. Fucking electricity or fire or some kind of light started pouring from his fingers and his eyes glowed with it. I couldn’t move. I don’t mean I froze in fear, I tried to run but my feet were stuck to the floor, and Kim’s too.

He spoke, and it wasn’t loud but everything around us kind of rang with his voice anyway, I did too, I felt like a guitar string plucked deep inside me. And he says, right before he dies, he says, “Die from regret.”

I didn’t end up feeling a lot of regret right away. Kim, I was worried about her though, she was so eaten up by it, and that ain’t the first man she’s offed, but I never saw her so torn up. She ended up eating a bottle of pills.

I figured maybe it was a curse, but I was in the clear, ‘cause she did him, not me. But as soon as she went, the nightmares started. Every time I eat, I feel bad that man can’t taste anything anymore. Every time I get tired and cranky at work, ‘cause I can’t sleep, right? I get all tired and cranky and sore, but as soon as I think about how good it would be to go home and sit in my chair, I remember that dude was a hard worker, and he probably liked that feeling of relief too.

Today I got a headache, and I felt bad because that man would never get a headache again, even though it was pain. All those rough moments just make the smooth moments sweeter, and he can’t have either. I don’t think I’ll last out much longer.

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Zombie Tarot Prompt: King of Hazards, Reversed. More tarot stories.

The Moon, Reversed

The living room looked familiar, but when I stepped onto the carpet it felt like I had two sets of feet. One pair I could feel brushing the fabric, the carpet was soft and plush but my feet were definitely on it. Then it felt as if there were another pair over that pair, one floating a few inches off of the ground, toes dangling lazily and only just brushing the fuzzy carpet.

My stomach revolted from a sensation that reminded me of driving too fast in the country, hitting a dip that bounces the car just enough to unseat you and thrill you a little. I didn’t feel thrilled though, I felt a sense of dread.

Shadows around the room seemed to grow thicker, maybe a little undulating, as I realized I had seen this room before. This was the room in that dream I kept pretending wasn’t happening. That meant he was right behind me, and yes, there are the hands around my throat lifting me, and that’s not a thrill I feel.

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P.S. – I added a little guide to this game that I’m playing here, if you want to play along or get a better idea for how I’m coming up with prompts.

P.P.S. – Aunt Robin, if you made it here, this is the Guided Tour page. Make sure to see the brownie story I accidentally showed Mom (I did get out of her that I never told her what kind of brownie I wanted to be). Over here is the Staten Island post I was talking about. Maybe one day I’ll come stay in a haunted hotel near you and it won’t have to be twenty years until we chat in person again.