Displaying items by tag: fiction
At first, Kelly could not figure out why a wool mitten was in with her summer clothes. She studied the orphan with its worn ribbon bow as the box of cut-offs, tank tops and bikinis sat in the sunlight outside her storage unit. Clothes unworn since high school. The bikinis alone gave her angst.
She expected pain by opening the overhead door. It was why she took the whole day off without telling Donna to clean out her meager belongings. Donna would have demanded why she paid rent on the unit in the questionable part of town for so long. And Kelly had no answer for that.
She reminded herself that having her bikini days behind her didn’t matter. Donna scoffed at going to the beach. Instead, she played volleyball two nights a week in the cold sand of indoor courts. Sometimes Donna didn’t wash the sand off her feet and stood at the bar barefooted afterwards, but the real beach wasn’t her environment. The bar was. Kelly sat next to her in an oversized T-shirt with the logo of the bar, drinking the beer Donna bought for her and listening to Donna and her friends.
It’s time to clean out what you don’t need. Kel. Just get rid of everything, a voice inside her head told her.
I cruised out of BLE’s house in my crate. A teenaged girl like me, she was one of few people I’d ever seen in person.
I stopped my crate in no place in particular to flat out break the law. I was so good at hacking crates that I’d reprogrammed mine to open upon command. Crazy illegal!
All crates were programmed to protect everyone’s fundamental right not to be seen. Basically, they remained closed until confirming you were in the presence of only legally sanctioned live contacts. Then you went back in before seeing any unauthorized people.
History recounts that long ago, people judged one another by things such as gender, ethnicity, occupation, personal transportation vehicle, etc. But the modern American Political Union, our beloved A.P.U., made that intrinsically impossible.
“You sure you want to do this?” Kai asked. “If you don’t, just say. No pressure.”
We sat facing each other on the bed in his room, with heavy, black curtains drawn closed. Zombies, ghosts and aliens stared from a hand-painted wall mural, but the only human eyes were ours. Kai tried to meet my eye, but I dodged his gaze, my focus drifting down his bony frame to his waist.
“Be sure,” he said. “Once this happens, it can’t un-happen.” He tugged a loose thread on his jeans. “It might change how you feel about me.”
But I was fourteen, sure about everything and Kai was going to be my soulmate. I reached for his belt.
I loosened his jeans and he inched them down just a little. As he exposed goose-pimpled flesh, my heart fluttered, then it thundered as black and silvery ink appeared. Beside his hipbone sat a gun tattoo, glossy and shadowed, perfectly realistic.
“Katha, what have you done?”
A hand gripped my shoulder and shook me, pulling me from sleep. I scrunched my eyes closed and attempted to roll over, but the grip on my shoulder tightened. Squinting, I could just make out my mother standing over my bed. One hand was grasping my shoulder, while the other held a book. A blue book. A book I’d hidden in the far reaches of my closet so no one would find it.
Suddenly wide awake, I pushed myself into a sitting position, shoving my hair behind my ears.
“Why were you going through my things?” I asked, my voice still scratchy from sleep.
“You’ve been acting weird for the past few weeks,” retorted my mother. “I knew something was wrong, and you wouldn’t tell me what it was, so I had to find out however I could.”
I didn’t appreciate that she’d gone snooping through my things, but a small part of my mind could understand that when you were worried, you looked for answers. And she was right; I hadn’t told her what had happened…how I’d discovered just a few weeks ago that I could use magic. I’d wanted to, but I hadn’t known how. And I’d been afraid of her response.
Beyond the cracked sidewalk, and the telephone pole with layers of flyers in a rainbow of colors, and the patch of dry brown grass there stood a ten-foot-high concrete block wall, caked with dozens of coats of paint. There was a small shrine at the foot of it, with burnt-out candles and dead flowers. One word of graffiti-filled the wall, red letters on a gold background: Rejoice!
A boy stood facing his audience in his best white shirt. “Took me three weeks to finish it,” said the kid, motioning to the gigantic word behind him. “Had to use six cans of paint, but Daddy don’t miss one off the back of his truck every few days.” He fanned himself with a wad of posters then admired his handiwork. “So now, we may rejoice.”
The Monson twins looked back at the boy, who stood on top of two palettes. Then they stared at each other, dumbfounded. They were too young to read the posters he’d drawn, perhaps too young to even understand the word rejoice. One of the girls, Shannon-Lee traced the outline of the word on the wall with a stubby finger.
They say in horror films that the ditzy, beautiful girl always dies first. In Kimberly’s case, that did not happen. She survived. Survived in the sense that she did not die that night.
It had been a month, and that night still haunted her every thought, her mood, her speech. The only reason she was returning to campus was because her parents were driving her crazy. Their response to her trauma was to project their fear and panic onto her, just pile it on as if she were not already a trembling mound of jello.
The psychiatrists and support groups had not really helped. They made her seep in the trauma of that night, the terror settling into her bones, her teeth chattering with the all too recent memory.
She remembered the gunshots, the screams… the crying and begging. She remembered the chaos, flashes in the suddenly blackest of nights, the thumps as bodies fell to the ground. That pool party had been packed, until suddenly she had felt all alone, running for her life. She had tripped over an exposed root, her body pitching forward, her face crushing against the Earth. All sense of direction, all ordered thought, had vanished as she tried to focus on her own escape and not the screams and shots. Dear God, not the screams and shots.
A blanket smothered the sky, a faint light filtering through the nightlamps. Chivena’s feet followed the same path she had taken for years, skipping in Grade 1, sprinting in Grade 5, and now in Grade 9, she was simply walking. The light was unnecessary; Chivena knew her way, memorization was her strong suit after all.
The bus was pulling in at its usual time when she got to the stop. She took her usual spot at the front. The usual girl sat next to her. And in the usual silence, they rode to school.
Stepping off the bus into the musty air, Chivena joined the stampede of school children gravitating towards a single light in the sleeping dusk. Like moths toward a flame, they floated up the sidewalk falling into step with the rest. Slowly, the crowd dispersed into the maze of hallways, linoleum tiles reflecting the florescent lighting. Despite the masses of children, a stagnant silence floated through the air. There was simply nothing that could be said. Walking to Block 1, Chivena stopped to rub her aching back. Her pack had gotten so much heavier over the years, filled to the brim with her Notes. She sighed and went on her way. This was the best way. Nothing better than a pack had been mentioned, and therefore nothing such existed. Chivena smiled to herself in her brilliance, no wonder she was Top of Class.
The bell was just about to ring at its usual time when she got to Math. She took her usual spot at the front. The usual boy sat next to her. They brought out Notes in the usual silence.
“And he said unto Jether his firstborn, Up, and slay them. But the youth drew not his sword: for he feared, because he was yet a youth.”
Absalom Seaver stood between his sister Susannah and his brother Lemuel while, on either side of them, the little ones leaned against the burnished pine of the next pew, weary of the service. The church hummed with the voices of Seavers, Glasses, and Gustafssons intoning a funeral hymn. Overhead, great beams, like the ribs of a whale that had swallowed them all, seemed to shudder with the grief that clogged the room.
The final verse ended like a boulder coming to rest at the bottom of a ravine. At once, the minister, a dithering husk of a Glass and a cousin of the departed, began the prayer. Absalom listened for as long as he could stand it as Rev. Glass rasped his way from the churning of the Jordan to the light of heaven. Hadn’t he heard this very prayer before? It had been hardly three months since the last funeral. He glanced at Susannah, who stood with eyelids devoutly lowered. She had been crying a little, but he knew it was more from the fear and the horror than from grief. They hadn’t known Charlie Glass, particularly. He’d been one of those men Absalom had always tried to steer clear of. It was pretty certain he’d had a hand in the barn burning the week before.
Out in the churchyard, the families milled about among the gravestones, a number of which were barely weathered. Absalom waited with Lemuel and Susannah, who was trying to keep the little ones quiet. He could hear angry muttering coming from the knot of farmers gathered near a sprawling oak. Their voices rose as their curses went from coarse to foul.
“Oh, please, this is hallowed ground,” said the minister, flitting up to his restive congregants. “Remember, ‘A wholesome tongue is a tree of life: but perverseness therein—’”
Jane, heiress of Moorcroft Grange, climbed the ancient beech tree in the overgrown hedge in an attempt to rescue Harriet, the stable-boy’s cat. She crawled along the branch on which Harriet was balancing. It snapped. The cat yowled, leaped out of the tree and fled back to the stables. Jane and the branch crashed into the hedge.
She pulled herself to her feet and looked around. The estate gardens had become an uncultivated meadow. Wild flowers: buttercup, cowslip and yarrow invaded the long grass with bursts of colour. The grange itself was a burned-out ruin standing stark as bare bones against the red and gold sunset.
A white mare trotted towards her and nuzzled her neck. She heard no words, but the horse thrust a thought into her mind “Who are you? Where do you come from?”
“My name’s Jane,” she said, “How can I hear your thoughts?”
“Why shouldn’t you hear them? What’s a Jane? I don’t know that sound.”
She must be hallucinating, of course. Maybe she hit her head when she fell, knocked herself out and was imagining this. Whatever. Go with the flow. “It means precious gift.” She said, remembering her mother telling her the meaning of her name ten years ago, on her seventh birthday, a few days before running off with an astrophysicist and out of her life forever. Obviously she wasn’t precious enough.
The mare responded, “Bit of a mouthful. I’ll call you Gift. My name is Little Girl. Not very appropriate, I know, but it’s what Horse-Master called me when I was a foal.”
“Aaaaand …. begin!” the SAT proctor says, and settles in for a two-hour nap.
Five minutes later, Gyro stirs the proctor awake and hands her his test. “You’re done already, Einstein?” she says.
“Woulda been done sooner, Ma’am, but this archaic pencil-based technology –- filling circles and all – slows me down.”
“Back to your seat, smart alec,” the proctor mutters. “You can’t leave now.”
Gyro returns to his desk, the one in front of Spike, the 300-pound captain of the football team. Only a freshman, Gyro showed up for the October SAT session anyway for a few minutes of mental calisthenics, and now he’s stuck here. To pass time, he fills the circles on Spike’s test too, which turns out to be a good bargain all around: the proctor gets her nap, Spike gets his answers, and Gyro gets to keep his left arm screwed in its socket.
When the SAT session mercifully ends, Gyro passes beneath the drowsy proctor’s icy glare. He heads across the hall to Tech Prep’s banquet room, filled with round tables for this fall’s parent’s weekend luncheon. Every year, the headmaster loosens up the parents with a playful wager: he’ll send the entire student body on a Bermuda junket if the school’s brightest freshman can solve a near-impossible math problem. He’s never paid up, but this year Gyro has the student body abuzz.