Hello! Sorry for disappearing again. I’ve been settling into a new routine, and recently developed annoying daily headaches. By the time I get home from work, I’m fending off one, and that makes me unlikely to do much writing. For those I generally email back and forth with, this is why I may have been relatively silent. Computer screens tend to exacerbate the symptoms. I’m trying some environmental changes, like using lamps and natural light more than the obnoxious fluorescents at work, drinking water, sleeping more, and other things. Hopefully I get them managed soon, because it’s really frustrating to deal with them daily. They aren’t bad, but having them every day is really getting old.
And then there’s the age-old problem where I currently hate everything I’m writing. That’s always good. Which means I have a handful of half-finished things, and nothing ready to be posted. That is good in that I will have lots to post at some point, but bad in that I do not currently have a multitude of pieces to choose and post from. Well, except for this piece. It’s a shorter one, and I more like the idea than the piece. It was an attempt to write something in second person that I would not absolutely hate, and I think it sort of does that. You’ll just have to judge for yourselves the merit of this one! Happy reading!
You do not remember what happened back then. Whatever it was, it is lost in a haze that only briefly resurfaces in your deepest nightmares or that flash of anxiety deep in your gut. You were too young to remember it then, and youth may be precisely what saved you. Only you are not so young now, and your youth can no longer be your shield.
You know something happened, try as you might to ignore it. You caught hints of it in those stilted dinner time conversations when your parents would smile and swiftly change the subject, obviously dancing around something sinister. There was a fear and panic in their smiles, so you knew it must mean something. Even if you consciously brushed it aside, it burrowed into your subconscious. You remembered the half-known dreams with abstract feelings of guilt and pleasure that woke you with the power of the mood, even if the specifics grew fuzzy. You knew that there were certain words and phrases that sent an unnatural shiver down your spine, even though they seemed so benign. There was something buried in your life so deep, no conscious thought could uncover it.
You were so small when it happened, you must have been innocent. That was what they said at the time, at least. You do not remember the babysitter with her short, dark hair and innocent, trusting eyes. She had just been certified for babysitting, or so she said, whatever that meant. She was responsible and organized, if perhaps a little strict. Dutifully and impersonally, she prepared your dinner, put you in pajamas, and tucked you into bed. No matter you were not ready for bed. Once she thought you were asleep—though you certainly were not at such an unreasonable hour—she tuned out the house with that music she was so enamored with. It all sounded angry and violent to your unaccustomed ears. You could hear it surrounding you as she made you dinner, heard the sounds drip from her lips as she hummed and half-sang along from somewhere in the house as you fought not to sleep.
You were angry, and he was there to help. You certainly do not remember your imaginary friend. Trauma at such a young age has a way of wiping away those details. Or so they say. He was there to soothe you, and he promised to make sure she understood. You do not remember his smile, with those fine, sharp teeth. You may remember his breath, a warm and sticky mixture that sometimes catches you on a hot summer’s day, making you feel at once uneasy and overwhelmed. You might remember his eyes, those dimly sparkling spheres that you sometimes think you see in the shadows of your room, even if you do not know what you are looking for. But, then., he smiled so wide and it soothed you.
What happened next is anybody’s guess. The police report said that someone broke into the house and attacked her, using a kitchen knife to slice her stomach into thin ribbons. Of course, it also said there was no sign of forced entry; the attacker was someone she knew. It said you were spared as you slept soundly in your room, somehow immune from the deranged attacker’s violent hate. You must have woke later and found her there. Not knowing any better, you tried to wake her, brought yourself close to her. You must have move the knife, since your fingerprints were on it. Surely that must be it, because you were so little and it was so violent. There was no other explanation.
Her boyfriend was questioned. A lover’s spat? No, it was determined, and he left the station in tears, scarred by the images they had plastered before his eyes. Luckily you do not remember what you saw that night, otherwise you would have to be very damaged, now wouldn’t you? They questioned your parents, suspecting some deviant scheme to harm young women in the neighborhood, but that was quickly dismissed. Their alibi was airtight; it was date night after all. Her parents were brought in and left an inconsolable mess of human that eventually drifted away and fell apart. Whatever happened that night tore apart so many families.
Yours was spared, it seemed, and you were spared, it’s true. You appeared to be blissfully unaware of anything that had happened, able to continue your childhood as a happy child, grinning and laughing even as the detectives asked you about the events. You listened to your imaginary friend as he told you what to say, and you played with him as they sat beside you and begged for any sort of clue. Not that you spoke well at that age, but they were desperate for any sort of lead.
You would giggle talking about the knife and blood. When you mentioned the games you played with her, the rushed you along and asked you again and again about anyone who hurt her. They simply could not understand why it was so important they understand the game. At some point, you told them she screamed and they eagerly began to write. You told them she screamed because you had a knife and were angry at being sent to bed. They sighed, chalking it up to the egocentricity of a child. Maybe the event had rubbed off on you in some way, but certainly not in a way that would help them. So they thought.
But, you do not remember any of this. It was not long after that your imaginary friend disappeared, and you quickly forgot all the jokes about knives and blood that had been such a staple. You stopped trying to play the same game with your parents where you could hide the kitchen knives under your bed. Your parents were relieved, fearing you had would grow into some sociopath after such an early witnessing. Soon, you were just like every other kid. And so no one mentioned it any more. Your recovery was deemed fragile by your parents, afraid they would accidentally remind you of that night or somehow blame you for what happened. And so it became a silent truth, buried under years of need-to-know.
And now, you need to know. Because he is back. He was smiling at you just the other day, that time you thought someone was sitting behind you. You turned, he smiled at you with that wide smile, and you saw no one there. You laughed, shrugged it off, and moved on with your day. If it stopped there, you would still be safe. But it hasn’t. Before, you at least knew when he was ordering you around, even if it had tragic consequences. Now, though, you seem unaware. The other day, he told you to look out the window, and you did, your head swiveling sharply. You told yourself you must have seen something moving outside, but now you might know the truth.
Or not too long ago when you became so angry. It came on so quickly, and swelled to such a level, it surprised you. It seemed such a trivial matter, but it spurred you to such an unusual level of rage. Just tired, irritated, worn out, you reasoned as you calmed yourself back down. If only you could have seen the rage in his eyes or heard his violent whispers. Though the truth is you did hear and see, after all, you just do not remember.
Earlier this week, he whispered to you to scratch your head, and you did without a thought. Such a simple thing, you did not give it a second thought. Maybe it could have been just a coincidence if he had not been there, watching gleefully as you danced on his puppet strings.
And just a bit ago, he urged you sit down and read a bit. Click that link, go there. He pointed you to this page here, to these words. And he smiled.
He is testing you, making sure you will obey his orders just as you did those years ago. You complied then, and he thinks you will comply again. You need to know now if you are to stand a chance. Otherwise, you will comply. People will die. Only this time, they will know it was you.
And he will smile.
This work by Katherine C is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Card Day 68: A twister spinning in the palm of a hand.
“I think you should know that I’m…special.” Penelope swirled her straw through her drink, not quite making eye contact with her dinner guest.
He smiled and reach across the table to twine his fingers with hers. “Trust me, that is one thing I definitely know about you. You are so special to me, more than any—“
She yanked her hand away suddenly, irritation painted in her eyes. “No, I don’t mean like that. I mean—“ she trailed off at that. Her eyes were bright, yet pricked conspicuously with distress. They raced along the room as she wrung her hands distractedly. Finally, she gathered in a deep breath, and poured out her confession. “I mean I have special powers.”
Frank laughed, and she watched his head fly back, mouth wide, unintentionally mocking her. As he calmed, he made quick note that she, on the other hand, was not enjoying the joke of her own creation. He studied her face, scouring it for any glimmer of humor. She could never play a joke this straight-faced.
“Penny,” he said, still smiling, “that’s a good one. But you can lay off now. You got me.”
“I’m not joking, Frank.” She seemed to be deeply invested in the cheap carpeting of the restaurant, and his discomfort was growing.
“Come on, it’s not funny. You got me, now stop.”
When her eyes met his, he wished instead she had kept glaring at the carpet. There was fierce anger and frustration burning in her eyes, and he was close enough to feel the heat wash over him. “I said it wasn’t a joke,” she hissed. “I’m as serious as I’ve ever been in my life. But I know you bought a ring last week, and so I can’t put this off any longer. I’m different.”
Frank was floundering. He had known her for years, more than long enough to understand the subtlety of her jokes as well as the depths of her sincerity. This was not a joke. He could peer into every crevice of her expression, but there was not a single ounce of humor. She was terrible at drawing something out this long; in their years together, she had never carried out a joke more than a minute or so before her façade cracked into giggles. It was sobering, because she was completely serious. “Have you, I mean, do you think it would be good to talk to someone about this?”
“I’m talking to you about it right now.”
“No,” his nerves left him feeling a thousand miles away from the quaint diner table. “Not me. Have you maybe told a…professional about this?”
She grew steely, then softened. “I’m not crazy, Frank. I know it sounds that way, but I’m not. It’s a genetic thing that runs in my family, so if you’re considering marrying me, you should know.”
“Wait, how did you know about the ring? Does that mean you’re psychic?”
Penelope rolled her eyes. At least she had him buying in on the “special powers” thing for the moment. “No, you left the receipt in your wallet. I saw it the other night when I got your card for the takeout.” He appeared a bit deflated, again concerned. “But that does not mean I don’t have other gifts.”
“Penelope, you know I love you, but you have to understand that this is all a bit much. If this is a joke—“
“For the last time, it’s not a joke.” Her voice peaked high enough this time to draw stares from the nearby tables, and her face burned red in response. “I can control the weather.”
Frank snorted, pushing back a bit from the table. “Seriously, Penny? You think I’m going to buy that? We just had our picnic rained out, but you can control the weather?”
He could see her trying to stay calm and keep herself together, waging an internal battle and losing. Her words were strained, barely contained, when she finally did speak. “Yes, our picnic was rained out. Do you have any idea how much energy it takes to redirect a seasonal storm front for a few hours?”
He withered under her fiery gaze. “I mean, no, I don’t know that. But come on, you can’t expect me to believe this? It’s crazy, Penny!”
“So, now I’m crazy.”
“No, you are not crazy. This story is. I guess it was supposed to be a joke, but I don’t think either of us is laughing. Let’s drop it and enjoy our dinner.” Frank buried his face into the menu as if it would protect him from the dangerous glare in her eyes.
“You aren’t going to believe me without proof, are you?”
Frank reached his limit. He snapped the menu closed and pressed it into the table. “Would you?” he responded sharply, this time not shying from her angry gaze.
“Fine, but we leave and get pizza on the way home once I’m done.”
“Whatever you say, Penelope. You can have all the pizza you want, but I chose this place for a reason. I’ll get it to go, but I’m having dinner.” He dove back into the menu, steaming.
Unfortunately, this meant he missed the subtle transformation crashing over Penelope. She closed her eyes halfway, leaving them unfocused and moving rapidly behind her lids. Her breathing slowed to steady, deep breaths that came in regular but prolonged gaps. She left her hands folded in her lap, fingers curled tightly together, and her knuckles steadily turned white at the prolonged pressure. Steadily, her breath slowed and deepened, and then a tiny puff of fog preceded from her lips with each breath.
Had Frank looked, her would have noticed that her skin seemed to grey, as did her usually vibrant brown hair. It was as if someone drained the color from the room, in fact, but she was the focus of the disruption. Perhaps Frank noticed the food looked less appetizing in the menu pictures, but he never moved his eyes to look at her. It was not until he lifted his hand to call over a server that he realized something was wrong.
The air of the restaurant hung heavy and wet around him, even though the fans overhead had never stopped spinning. It was sticky in there with all the heat and humidity of a July afternoon. Frank’s eyes widened, staring at his changed girlfriend as she continued in her trance, the mist from her lips rising to the ceiling. The clatter of the restaurant died down, people beginning to notice the change. However, it was as if they all moved through water, heads moving sluggishly and eyes glancing dumbly about. Sounds were muted and echoing dully, the sounds of the kitchen having slowed in tempo even as the servers were caught in the same doldrums.
Penelope was faded, distant, but consuming. He could not pull his eyes away because, as dim as she was, she still pulsed with a power that defied everything he had ever thought. Mesmerized, he watched as a cloud steadily formed among the rafters of the restaurant, grey and foreboding.
When it began to rain inside, she seemed to snap from the trance, and the world rubber banded back into place with sudden activity. People scurried, throwing napkins and menus over their heads to protect from the rain. Frank sat entranced on his own, while Penelope slumped in her seat. She opened her eyes, heavy with fatigue, long enough to give him a pointed and charged glance.
“Believe me now?”
The restaurant had exploded into chaos around them, people pouring around their table and towards the exit. Waiters and waitresses stumbled about, trying to get people out safely while looking around in muted shock. There was no hole in the ceiling, no ring of the fire alarms. This was not the sprinkler system, and it had no cause. Eventually, the newspapers would claim it was due to an interaction between air conditioning, humid external conditions, and smoke from the kitchen.
But Frank knew the truth “Yeah, I’m converted. Let’s get you that pizza, my special woman.”
This work by Katherine C is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Card Day 67: Children riding a wind-up carousel atop dragons, elephants, and other creatures.
The dragon rose majestically over the forest, her wings unfurling and casting deep shadows along the ground below. She stretched her neck, releasing a vicious cry into the sun-laced air, as her wings arched back and forth rhythmically. In the forest below, there was movement that caught her eye, perhaps a worthy foe. Large, intelligent blue eyes scanned the forest, picking up the disturbances in the foliage that marked her opponent’s movements.
On the ground, the dinosaur roared its own battle cry, staring at the trees in an attempt to reach the best floating high above. His steps thundered along the earth, creating rumbling disturbances throughout the area. Animals fled from before him as he made his way to the arena. This would be the final battle, the one to prove ultimate alpha predator. Above him, he could see the flying shadow following behind him, heading to the determined place.
Rock walls rose around them, towering and imposing, limiting her top altitude while keeping him in a cramped earthly domain. Both roared, circling one another and looking for any weakness. She struck first rearing back and spewing a blast of liquid fire to the ground. The dinosaur rolled away, narrowly avoiding a swift loss. He raised his claws, raking at the air, but finding her out of reach. Instead, he reared back and shot his own ball of flame towards her.
“Hey, that’s no fair!” snapped Xandi, swatting at her twin brother.
“You did it to me!” he responded as he shoved her in turn.
She put her hands on her hips. “Yeah, well, dragons can breathe fire. Dinosaurs can’t. Maybe you should have thought of that before.”
“Well it’s still not fair. You can breathe fire and fly. It’s no fun if you just fly away the whole time. I guess you’re just chicken.” Xander smirked at her and stuck out his tongue. Unfortunately, he also closed his eyes to complete his taunt, so he did not have a chance to see her barreling towards him until she tackled him to the ground.
Now that the dragon had left her lofty domain, the fight could truly begin. The punched and pinched at each other, roaring with pain and irritation as they rolled along the playroom floor. The ruckus quickly summoned a referee, however, and their mother stormed in to separate the two.
Having twins had taught her quite a bit about how to break up a fight, so she grabbed two arms and tugged them in opposite directions, ending up with two panting children on opposite sides of her body. “That’s enough, you two. If you don’t want timeout, then the fight is through.” Both looked angry and offended, carrying the weight of perceived slights and a few red marks from the brutal fight.
“Xander was cheating. He was a dinosaur, but he kept blowing fire!” She accentuated her point with the stomp of a foot, and her mother sighed. They were both too young to have that much attitude.
“Well Xandi wouldn’t even play! She was just flying and trying to beat me!”
“That’s the whole point,” she sneered back.
“Yeah, but you were being a big chicken—“ His mother’s sharp look cut off the taunt before it could progress to the actual clucking, but Xandi understood the intent nonetheless. Their mother shook her head, drawing them side by side in front of her. The same bright blue eyes stared at her, the same dark hair framing pale faces. If they were not different genders, she would have sworn they were identical twins.
“Listen you two, I don’t care who did what or what animals have what superpowers. You cannot hit your brother or your sister.” Her eyes drifted side to side between them, pinning them both to the floor. “If you cannot play Monster Battle nicely, you cannot play at all.” She watched them both soften as she threatened their favorite game. Their mother rolled her eyes internally and reminded herself to thank her husband for the wonderful Godzilla marathons.
“No, please, we can play nice!” whine Xandi, giving a half-sincere smile to her brother,
“Yeah, we’ll be good and quiet. No more fighting. No more real fighting,” said Xander as he quickly corrected his statement.
“I don’t know, guys. We do this a lot. Maybe it’s time to take a break—“
“No,” rose the chorus, plaintive and heartbroken.
“Give us one more chance, Mom.” Xander held onto her arm, resting his head against her shoulder. Xandi reached over and put a hand on her brother’s shoulder in true teamwork.
“Yeah, Xander can have fire-breath, I guess. It’ll be more fun, then.” She did not sound convinced, but Xander brightened at the concession.
Their mother stood, eyeing them both closely. She knew she still had dinner to tend to on the stove and a hefty stack of paperwork waiting for her review. If for once the promises were true, it would definitely make her evening a lot less stressful. Worst case scenario, she would be back in ten minutes to break them up again and set them to different tasks.
As their mother left the room, they envisioned a giant alien mothership floating away on the horizon. They could return to the duel.
“Alright,” said the dragon from her lofty vantage point, “you can have fire breath, but then I get—“ she paused as she searched her repertoire of appropriate monster abilities,”—ice breath!”
The dinosaur grumbled something under his breath, but accepted the solution. “Fine. But if you fly out of bounds, then you lose.”
“Fine,” muttered the dragon, never having broken the steady beat of her wings. She flapped above the arena as the combatants sized one another up.
Xander struck first, blowing a billowing cloud of fire upwards as he rushed around the arena. Xandi glanced around, suddenly seeing the air turn into a boundary of flaming walls. “That was smart,” she said, and he smiled smugly in response. “But not smart enough. Ice breath!”
With that, the sky turned into frozen blocks of fire that swiftly plummeted to the ground. The dinosaur used all its agility and speed to dodge out of the way, but one of the falling pillo—ice blocks struck his shoulder, and he careened wildly along the ground.
He roared in pain, sliding along the dusty arena floor and bumping against the rock walls. Pictures hung along the rock face trembled, but held firm. They both sighed in relief as the lack of devastation.
“Now I’ve got you!” roared the dragon, circling her fallen prey. Victory gleamed in her eyes along with a haughty sense of accomplishment. “You won’t get away from me!”
Even in his wounded state, the dinosaur was not to be bested. He lifted a rock from the floor next to him and flung it with all his might toward the spiraling beast. She was taken by surprise, never having suspected her injured foe to be so creative or strong. The stone struck her wing, and she found herself careening back towards the ground. And the waiting claws of her opponent.
The twins crashed into one another, once again rolling across the floor in the throes of laughter and mumbled threats. They locked arms, faces hovering inches from one another, and rolled back and forth across the floor.
They tumbled and fought, managing to seamlessly block one another’s attacks. Eventually, their breath-based powers exhausted, they restored to throwing stones from around the arena, crushing one another under pillowy weights. The dragon lifted a handful of pebbles and watched as the stuffed animals mercilessly rained down on her foe. He stood no chance, as he could not block all the dozens of projectiles launched his way. But he dove behind a rocky outcropping, then launched another boulder towards her. She barely had time to roll out of the way, struggling to fly away on her injured wing.
They were breathless and screeching, dodging behind furniture and overturning pillows, cushions, footstools, toys, and anything else that made a suitably safe stand-in for deadly attacks. Eventually, the ruckus drew the mothership back into the room.
“Guys,” sighed the alien voice, cutting into their battle. The dragon and dinosaur froze, investigating the new threat. “I thought you were going to keep it calm.”
“We were, mom, we just—“
“You made a huge mess.” Both creatures looked around at the ruins of the arena, stones littering the floor from one end to the other. Little remained of the once pristine battleground. It had truly been a ferocious fight.
“We were just having fun,” muttered Xander, his eyes darkening under his pouting brow.
“Yeah, but fun does not mean destruction. Listen, dinner will be ready in ten minutes,” said the alien, pointing animatedly at the sundial looming on the arena wall. “I want this place picked up by dinner. No more Monster Battles.”
“Yes, ma’am,” moaned Xandi and Xander. They slowly began walking towards the pillows, picking them up with half-hearted zeal and dropping them limply on the couch. The mothership floated away again as she ran a tired hand through her hair.
“I’ll get you next time,” taunted Xandi as she restacked the various stuffed animals in their assigned spots.
“Why wait until next time?” growled the dinosaur, a devious smirk on his face. Before she could react, he scooped up the footstool cushion and smacked her in the back of the head.
This work by Katherine C is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.