Archive for April, 2012

FF #3 – Carved Pumpkin

Aloysius Kildare was not easily frightened, but he had to admit that this particular  jack-o-lantern gave him shivers.  Usually the carved pumpkins in his small Oxford neighborhood were friendly or silly so as not to frighten the smaller children.  This one, its brilliant golden yellow glow in the dusk with its well-carved sinister eyes and fanged smile, was like something out of a waking nightmare.  He couldn’t let Kelly see it. Straightening his 13-year-old shoulders, he gripped his younger brother’s hand the tighter and pulled him across the street to a friendlier-looking house.  Kelly, of course, resisted.  “I want to go there!” he cried, pointing towards the house with its single pumpkin.  He was five, and not afraid of anything.

“No,” Aloysius said, “they never hand out good treats.”

“Oh.”  Kelly blinked up at his older brother.  “I want the good treats.”

“Then come over here, that’s what I’m trying to tell you.”

Without further urging, Kelly ran up the steps to the house before them, his oversized brown monk’s robe tripping his little feet. He knocked politely on the door, the way Aloysius had taught him and when the smiling face of the homeowner appeared, he said in his sweetest voice, “Trick or Treat?”

The smiling face had clearly had a little too much ginger beer that evening and delivered a chuckle.  “Howsabouta trick?”

To Aloysius’ surprise, Kelly reached into the sleeves of his monk’s robe and pulled out a small jelly jar.  He couldn’t see what the younger boy was doing, but that jar had held crickets and a good-sized lizard earlier that day.  This would probably end in tears.

“I named my lizard ‘Trick’,” Kelly announced proudly.  “Just so if anybody asked for him, I could give him to them.  I caught him today and fed him some big fat crickets!”

Behind the homeowner, the lady of the house appeared to pull him away from the door and hand out a fresh orange to the little monk.  Just as she did so, Kelly pulled ‘Trick’ the lizard from the jar and attempted to hand him to the tipsy gentleman.  Unfortunately, the lady saw the lizard first.  Her yelp of surprise startled Kelly so that he dropped ‘Trick’ (who scuttled off the porch into the landscaped yard) and as he realized his beloved pet’s disappearance, brought on a quivering lip and tears.

Aloysius chose that moment to intervene.  Stepping up to the door, he apologized to the startled lady who was beginning to go red in the face.  “Come on, Kells, we have to go.”  The woman redeemed herself by handing Aloysius the orange and shutting the door quickly, effectively muffling the peals of laughter from her tipsy husband.

“I don’t want it,” Kelly sniffled as Aloysius handed him the orange.  “You can have it.”

“Well hurry,” Aloysius returned, guiding him towards the next house, “Mom wants us home sooner rather than later.”  He stuck one thumb through the fragrant skin of the orange and began peeling it.

FF #2 – Dream Sequence

“My feet were sticking to the ground again,” Basil sighed as he poured himself some cereal.  His young wife, Cecily, set down her red mug on the kitchen table.

“I’m sorry,” she said.  “I know how that scares you.”

“I just wish I understood what it meant.”

“Were there any new symbols in the dream?”

Basil paused to reflect.  The dream usually consisted of him as a very young boy chasing a pretty woman with a purse he took to be his mother.  Behind him was always the man carrying a grocery bag, workers cap shading his eyes and face from Basil’s view.  The paving stones beneath his feet upheld him at first, but as he drew closer to his ‘mother’ his progress slowed because…his feet were sticking to the ground.  “No, nothing new. I see her, I run towards her, the man is behind me with his stupid grocery bag and hat, and my feet suddenly feel like they weigh a million pounds.”

“You could just be experiencing that weird REM paralysis they’re always on about in the science journals.”

“I feel like it means something, though. Do you think I should get the dream analyzed?”

“You’ve had it three or four times since you came back from Sydney.”

“Yes.”

“I don’t know, Basil, maybe you should have your head analyzed. Or get some blood work done.  Or maybe just stop eating ice cream before bed.”

Basil nodded, a wan smile spreading across his face.  Cecily was trying to help, in her way, by making him laugh.  It wasn’t always that easy for him to forget, though.  He dug his spoon into his cereal and ate hungrily.

 Later that morning as he stuffed his earplugs in and cranked the mower to its pervasive roar, his mind turned again to the dream tableau in his mind.  As the grass fell in his wake, he decided to break the dream into individual, specific parts. 

 One –I am a young boy

             Boys are young, immature, childish, innocent. We have an ‘inner child’ that wants attention.  Is this his medium for collecting attention?  The dreamscape?  I was a boy in the past.  Immature in the past, childish in the past, innocent in the past? Why would I be a boy now?  Maybe I am being immature about something. 

             Two –I am running towards a mother-figure.

            She’s not my real mother, so it means something different.  She’s just a woman who I associate with motherly nature—someone perhaps caring, nurturing, loving.  She carries a purse, like a mother does, but what’s in the purse?

             Three—I am running away from a mysterious male figure in a cap and who carries a bag.

             I don’t know this man, I am running, I am trying to avoid him.  Why—I don’t feel any fear. What’s in his bag?  Why the hat?  Hats cover and shield from the sun, then there’s the “many hats” idea, but he only wears the one hat in my dream. Could he be hiding something?

             Four –The problem with running.

             I can’t go as fast as I want, I can’t reach the loving-caring-nurturing person and I can’t fully escape the man.  My feet are heavy, sticky, and slow. I’m frustrated.  I feel some fear.  I doubt I can do what I want to do.  What did Cecily say about last time…that it was perhaps somehow related to my REM paralysis.

 He wiped his forehead, the beaded sweat dampening his shirt sleeve.  Five – The Bags.

 I think the solution is in the purse and the sack. Once I know what’s in there, I’ll know what I’m trying to avoid and trying to attain.

 The backyard finished, he moved on to the front yard without letting the mower stop. 

 What’s in a purse?  Identification, lipstick, God knows what else. I don’t know what’s in a purse.  My dad always told me it was rude to look through a purse, we used to joke it was a secret abyss like a sinister Mary Poppins.  A bag of identity and secrets, guarded, held close to the woman.   Sometimes she loses it or sets it down…so she’s got to be responsible for it… maybe it also means responsibility in my dreamscape.

 So I’m fleeing some hidden aspect of myself that has baggage, clearly (Man, check. Sack, check. Hat, check.  Running boy, check.) towards something ultimately good (Woman, check. Purse, check.).

 What the hell does it mean?

  The smaller front yard finished, Basil wheeled the mower back towards the garage and went to grab the edger and leaf blower.

 Something I should be, towards something I want to be?

 Something I’m afraid of, towards something I love?

 He was becoming frustrated as the answer eluded him and decided to focus on the edging work at hand.  There would be more time to think over this stupid dream after he was finished.

Behind the double-paned glass, Cecily watched her husband work.  His dreams weren’t news to her, as he’d often told her the silly things that passed through his dream brain as he slept.  She, however, paid much more attention to the symbolism often present in dreams.  Portent of things to come or not, dreams had to mean something—why else would the human brain bother to sort through those ideas?  She flipped open her laptop and searched the Internet for a dream dictionary.  The symbols in the dream weren’t too alarming, she thought, but how did they pertain to Basil?

 

Some 60 miles away, a gentleman in a grey morning suit rested his finger tips together, his eyebrows knit together in concentration, eyes focused on the desk in front of him.  “You’re certain it’s missing, and hasn’t been taken in for cleaning?”  The crisp English accent slit the quiet, cold air.

“Sir, I know a replica when I see it.  The painting wasn’t scheduled for cleaning and preservation work until next year.  I am quite certain it has been taken.”

“Very well, Hans, call in the Kildares.”

 

Words: 1000

04.10.12

First Ever Flash Fiction

How far will this place go? Cecily wondered as she crested yet another hill.  She stepped carefully around an obstacle and stopped, squinting into the lingering white fog.   She looked down at her compass, then with a sigh slung her backpack to the ground and began digging into it, searching for her guidebook.   Somewhere ahead of her, a few birds were squabbling over mates or food or territory.  Aside from their raspy voices, the entire area was heavy with silence.   Cecily squinted again into the fog and, with a pleased little “Hmph!” forged ahead.  Her booted feet took her to the wide marble base of her intended destination and she circled it once to take in every detail.  The mausoleum in front of her was worked in a French gothic style with carved marble columns, a small, dirty rose window, and mini-buttresses at the top of tall pillars which balanced a decorative entablature.  Topping the structure was a statue of a robed female who looked suspiciously like Lady Justice.  Cecily cast a wary eye towards the statue as she bent again to rummage through her backpack.

Her fingers at last closed upon a suede pouch, which she withdrew and unrolled, displaying a collection of shining lock-picking tools.  Cecily no longer heeded the sprawling cemetery behind her, but directed her focus to the immense bronze doors with their intricate work.  A few moments of expert ticking and scratching and the heavy bolt clacked satisfyingly in the door.  Cecily put away her tools and pulled on the massive handle.  It swung open without complaint, and Cecily peered into the gloomy stillness.  On the wall immediately opposite, three large and imposing faces bespoke Life, Death, and Immortality.  Cecily noticed with a wry grin that the Life and Death faces showed some signs of weather and age, but the Immortality face shone with youthful vigor, faithfully rendered by the artist’s skilled hand.  On the left and right walls from floor to ceiling, narrow shelves held shrouded figures that had been laid to rest years and years ago—the immediate family of the last Duke who lay entombed in the enormous black sarcophagus before her.

She stepped boldly into the mausoleum, scanning each wall and noting how fresh the work in here appeared—due to the preservation of darkness and dryness, she supposed.  The small door that led to the family crypt was situated below the Death face, its ominously closed eyes and shushing finger over its marble lips marking the entrance appropriately.  Cecily’s hand idly brushed the cold sarcophagus with its intricate religious carvings as she thought about what to do next.  She needed to figure out where the Duke had instructed the key to the crypt be kept.   Of course, those instructions had been carried out some 500 years earlier, so this would be no small task.  Cecily now drummed her fingers on the sarcophagus, and looked down at the carvings as she did so.  The motif of Life, Death, and Immortality was reiterated here, only in the form of vines and depictions of bountiful harvest that wound around crosses and some Old English text carrying a blessing for the dead.  Cecily was still tracing the carvings with her fingertips, when she felt rather than saw an unusual seam in the stone.  Her fingers anxiously flew to it and she gently pulled until a rectangular chunk of the ancient sarcophagus came off in her hand revealing a narrow shelf and large heavy key that had obviously been untouched for over half a millennia.

The prison-like door swung open with only brief protest and Cecily paused before entering the inky blackness.  In one hand she held a heavy flashlight and she played it around the walls, ceiling, and floor.   Two skulls on a slightly raised slab in the middle of the narrow hallway greeted her, their sightless eyes peering into eternity. The silence down here was deafening, and the air of the complete stillness of death that clung to each surface and invaded the intangible black space of the short hallway was stifling.  Cecily felt little prickles of excitement and a brief shiver raced down her back.  “Screwing her courage to the sticking place” as it were, she stepped onto the paving stones that had not borne a human foot since the 1500s, she began a slow, almost reverent journey towards the burial cells.  The older members of the Duke’s family were down here, most of them long reduced to dust.  The first cell, with its low door carved into stone, was lined with shelves similar to the mausoleum above, about 10 to a wall.  These shelves were carved with the names of the occupants, which Cecily thought was helpful.  She marveled at several of the still-crisp carvings and, after reading each of the names, she moved on to the next cell.  Her search took her into the heart of a seemingly endless number of chambers, the stillness broken only by her shuffling steps.  The lonely beam from her flashlight informed her eyes that the crypt actually had a bend ahead.  Cecily prayed she would find the correct chamber soon—the longer she stayed down here, the more the ill feeling in her stomach grew.  After what seemed an eternity, her light flashed over five letters at waist level that caused her heart and breath to quicken.  “Here lies HENRY,” she read aloud, the sound was quickly swallowed by the suffocating blackness behind her.

Praying this was the correct Henry, Cecily carefully reached onto the burial shelf and pressed gingerly against the shroud.  The bones had not quite finished decomposing and were brittle beneath her touch. Her probing hand moved towards where the dead man’s chest would have been.  There. Something cold and extremely hard became apparent and she carefully, albeit eagerly, pulled aside the ancient shroud.  Glimmering beneath the remnants of hands crossed at the breast was the most beautiful sight Cecily could have wanted.

The lost cover of the Book of Kells.