Transmutation through desperate ingestion of Anthocyanin
(Sepia sunlight oozes
through the smoke,
Silent in consumed anguish.)
You glow crimson at the last
(What once was green and lush,)
in a breaking of the haze.
that final gasp of glory for
summer is done,
(eaten up with frost and fire.)
And yet you shine,
in passions of crimson and sunset,
(Adamant despite it all;)
I want to consume you
leaf by star-leaf
plucked with lovers care,
(imbue me with your passion!)
yet ravaged all the same
as the licking fingers of the blaze
(For I am empty,
uncomprehending your joy,
as the grey-wash snowfall
whispering in to quench the inferno.)
note: Anthocyanin is the chemical that causes leaves to change color. I struggle with titles constantly. If anyone has recommendations I would be thrilled to hear them.
Four college bros walk into a bar...
Nathan was mixing a gin and tonic and Cosmo for the couple at the bar when the group came in. Damp chill winter air invaded the small dive, whirling in on the coattails of their chatter. They were having a lively argument, red cheeked but laughing. "Man, you would really go celebrate, like some old priest or something? For the rest of your life!? Nah man, no way!"
"I'm not going to take some other man's wife regardless of the situation. That's just shitty, trust me." They were all wearing hoodies in University colors and printed with sports clubs. The sat at the scratched oak bar a few seats from the couple he was delivering drinks to. "I'm with Chad, the rest of your life with, no women, no sex! Fuck that man!"
There is a study group tucked in a booth, papers and books strewn over the table. One of the girls chews the end of her pen between scribbles, he had noted its deterioration with each beer delivery and wondered how many pens she went through in a semester. God, that thing was battered, if she passed this test the damn thing deserved a comfortable retirement to the back of a desk drawer and a purple heart for good measure. The pen sees a moment of relief as she pointedly and pointlessly glared at the men.
"What can I get you guys?" Nate wiped the bar and distributed paper coasters that had once been bright green advertisements. Now they were stained with drink rings, and curled from the sweat off of a hundred beer glasses.
"Pitcher of PBR." He must have been the regular spokesperson for the group, he did not hesitate or look to his companions for confirmation. He barely looks at Nate when he places the order and continues their conversation. "Hell if I ended up in that group I wouldn't stay there, I'd knock a son-of-a-bitch out cold and he can be one of the five left overs."
"Kitchen closes in 15, you guys want to order any food?"
"Na man, just the beer." The same man answers for all of them again. "What about you Jimmy boy? Would you simply accept never getting laid again, or would you fight?" They seem unaware of the disturbance they caused in the quiet alchemy of the bar before they entered.
"Again? Jim aint been laid yet, he wouldn't even know what he was missing?!" This elicits a laugh from all of them, even Jim.
"Man, I've had sex plenty, I think you were talking about yourself!"
"Getting hand jobs from your RA don't count, I'm talking about a real fuck. So, what'll it be Jimmy, door number one, infinite fucks, or door number two no fucks for the rest of your life?"
He poured the pitcher, careful with the foam. Gods these kids are dumb, and young...still in the dorms anyway. Jason was at the door checking IDs, but he thought about asking to see theirs again. He should have taken the job downtown, college kids were a pain in the ass, and didn't tip worth shit. The commute would suck, but...
Jimmy has his answer. "No fucks would suck, but I think I go with celibacy. Breaking up someone else's relationship would be shitty, and what if the girl didn't like me?"
"See!" One shouts in triumph, "I knew you'd never had sex, otherwise you would chooses that!" They laugh again, Jim laughs less than before.
Nathan sets the pitcher down at the bar. Spokesman pours for all of them ineptly, four frosted glasses that are half head, they cheers and drink and don't seem to care.
"You guys want to keep it open or closed?"
"Open." Spokesman tosses a credit card on the across the bar. Nate is turning away when he speaks again. "Hey! We need a tie breaker, help us out." He doesn't ask, just expects Nate to comply. "Okay its the end of the world or some shit like that. There are 100 women and 105 men left. You are one of the five men that didn't get a woman. What do you do?"
Nate lifts on eyebrow, and is about to decide to just walk away. The study group looks like they could use a fresh round. Jim speaks up, looking a bit awkward. "We heard that for every 100 women born there are 105 men...so... what about the 5 guys?" he kind of trails off at the end.
"So. Option A: sex. Or option B: no sex?" Spokesman has emptied his first glass in one long pull, and is already refilling.
Okay, fine, he'll play. Nate rolls his eyes dramatically, he affects a slight lisp, puts his hand on a cocked hip. "I'm going with option G."
The boys frown, "um...?"
"Well" he flicks his had as if it should be obvious, "option G! Out of 105 dudes at least one of them is bound to be gay too. I'd find him, and the rest of ya'll can "knock a son-of-a-bitch out cold" to see who gets the lady he was paired with." They are flustered, Jimmy is reddening with embarrassment. Spokesman frowns deeply. "If she would take any of you that is."
They finish their pitcher and leave. Spokesman does not leave a tip on the credit card receipt, but Jimmy hangs back, just enough to toss a fiver on the bar without the others noticing. He doesn't look Nathan in the eyes though.
Later he kicks out the study group, locks up, and walks the 20 minutes to his apartment. He smokes a fat joint in the little courtyard of the complex before letting himself quietly into the apartment. Aaron has to get up early for his 9 to 5 that pay most of their bills, and it is passed 3 in the morning. He strips to his boxers and slides under the covers. Aaron half stirs and presses the curve of his spine into Nate, who drapes an arm over him and kisses the nape of his neck, gently. He thinks about the four college boys, again. Maybe it could become a joke. "Four guys walk into a bar. They ask the only gay guy there if he would steal another mans wife..." but that's not funny at all. Aaron will know how to make it funny, he finds the humor where Nate never can. The joint is settling in, and the warmth of Aaron's body pressed against his own is pulling him into jumbled dreams of the apocalypses and sex.
I wrote up something I quite liked, then realized I was 400 words over the limit... here are the pared down facts:
I don't watch horror, I was forbidden the genre as a teen by my mother (and was a silly kid who actually listened to her). I grew up, started recreating in the woods, and got a job working surveying for owls at night. I worked off trail in the darkest depths of night, miles and miles from anyone or anything. My greatest fear was falling and getting impaled by a sharp stick, or encountering a cougar (only once and I was in my truck). So...thanks Mom! No unearthly horrors to invade my brain in the dark woods.
I generally watch Pixar, Dreamworks, epic fantasy, kooky sci-fi, hopeful escapes, not something to make my brain add un-necessary horrors to the world.
full write up: https://theprose.com/write?postId=520738
The Horror! (longer post)
As a child, I was allowed access to just about any book I wanted to read (with a very few with held because "I think you will appreciate this when you are older"; Jitterbug Perfume and the likes) but what I was allowed to watch was a whole different story. My mom took the PG13 ratings to heart, and R was right out until I was 18. As such, I skipped phase at which most of my friends were scaring themselves silly watching The Ring, Skeleton key and Saw1 through 15 (or whatever). I resented this censoring at the time, but was a good little kid, and listened to my mother.
I grew up. I started recreating in the woods and mountains, I didn't have the time to bother with horror movies. Then I got a job surveying for owls...at night...in the middle of nowhere...bushwhacking.
There is a light breeze, just enough to rustle the dead leaves on the dense vine maple, just enough to obscure other subtle sounds. I sit in the dirt and dead grass of late summer listening intently, straining for any hint of my quarry. I turned off my headlamp when I got to the station (a misleading word here, implying development, safety, people...in reality, it was a weedy patch of hillside, marked only by a strip of candycane striped flagging and a set of GPS coordinates It really is better, with the light off. With it on you are in in a cage; a limited world world ending 25 feet away in a wall of black. Anything could be beyond. It is a necessary handicap while hiking across the steep and rough terrain. There is more risk, after all, of falling and being impaled by a staub in the dark than being attacked by anything. Even knowing this, as a hard cold fact, I still strain my ears for more than the owls I am searching for, was that little rustle behind me just a gust of breeze or a mouse...yes, definitely a small noise, hell, it was probably just a fricking bug. In the heavy dark of 2 AM deep in the rocky coniferous forest the soft rustling of mice in the brush, or cicadas flight, triggers a warning ringing deep in the lizard brain. A quick wave of adrenaline every time, quickening pulse, flush of heat, a holding of breath because even that is too loud. Every fiber of my body listening; with eagerness for that endangered species that was my target, and with a un-admitted dread for everything else that was certainly NOT a cougar...no way.
And it never was for me, although several folks I worked with had encountered them, thankfully with no ill consequences. Black Bears were more frequent but less worrysome being far more likely to run from you rather than at. Now, had my mother not been so...mothering...you can damn well guarantee it would have been far uglier apparitions invading brain on those quiet dark summer nights. Focusing on the real, the cougars, the bears, the wasps and the sharp stabby sticks (by far and away the most commonly encountered hazard, I have a deep scar on my arm from one) kept my overactive imagination from running amok with horrors.
When I put of a movie these days I find my self reaching for Pixar, Dreamworks, epic fantasy, and kooky sci-fi. I want a hopeful escape from the world, not something that will make my brain add (even more) un-necessary dread and horrors.
The air was humid and close always, now a growing stink permeated the jungle. Putrefaction, death, the sharp sting of decay in the nose. The discarded corpses of environmental activist, like before? Pushing through ferns fear dissolved to awe. The flower thrust 3 meters tall, reeking in all its glory!
Cogs of the Clock
Butler, Housekeeper and Goundskeeper glanced stoically at the broken body of Resident Artist sprawled at the base of the observatory tower. "Well, we'll have to find another. Who this time?" She vibrated, eyes transfixed on nothing, unbreathing. Then with a shuddered she said "A writer."
Butler tilted his head. "Not a poet I hope?" They all felt the vibration, heard the silent, toneless voice. Never Again.
They all remembered and never spoke of the incident at the brick wall that enveloped Eldwood. It was better to forget. "Well, let's begin preparations for the feast. Housekeeper, get a short list of writers. They can give readings between courses. Cook will need to put in an order. Groundkeeper, see that the east garden is prepared for champagne and music. Oh, and find someone to deal with this." Butler gestured at the ill fated Singer, half forgotten save for the gathering summer flies.
Mr. Alexis Howard received a gold embossed invitation in May. He hated to admit it, (he was an artist after all, and above the shallow frippery and fetes of the aristocrats) but his hand trembled slightly as he broke the wax. The parties and feasts at Eldwood Estate were famous for their opulence. They were infrequent and only the cream of society was ever invited. He nearly fainted upon reading the included card inviting him to a short work to read as part of the evenings entertainment. He sent his acceptance without hesitation.
Two maids were polishing the silver in preparation for the feast, every utensil would shine. “This is the third Artist since I’ve been here. Remember the painter what hung himself from the grand staircase? Why get a new one if they’re so much bother?” Maid Younger gabbed.
"I think its something to do with needing all the pieces.” Maid Elder mused as though to herself. “like a clock missing a tooth won’t keep time right. A clock without a cog wont work at all. I think you and me is teeth, maybe, and the Artists a cog. The Eldwood needs one." This insightful remark should have stayed unsaid. They both grew stiff for a moment, then resumed their task glassy eyed and silent. Empty.
Mr. Howard spent the first hour of the party in a daze of witty banter, champagne and violin. It wasn’t until sitting down to the feast that everything came into sharp focus. The wafting aromas of delicate soup and light fresh bread seemed to ground him, and he ate with polite gusto. There were several writers present to read a selection between each of the ten courses. The soup was followed by a man who shared a fiction of life at sea. Steamed fresh muscles in a butter wine sauce with a murder mystery. Roasted root vegetables with red wine glaze and a scathingly steamy romance. Every dish was perfection, every conversation pleasant and engaging. And every guest attentive when the writers gave their recital. There was no host present, but there seemed no need for one, everything progressed like a ballet.
Mr. Howard presented a philosophical comedy about a city man’s misadventures in the country after a fabulous dish of quail in plum sauce. As he sat down to polite applause, the conversation around him was suddenly muffled and his vision blurred. He found himself thinking uncomfortably over his life and work. It felt like he was being questioned by a stranger and he was compelled to answer. His vision darkened, and his ears rang. Mr. Howard was about to cry out, when and aromatic dish of fish and wild mushrooms was placed before him. Everything came back into focus. He shook himself. Nerves. Startled, he barely heard the next reader, but the sense of dread faded with each sip of vintage wine. He had a spirited conversation with the gentleman next to him about free will and the role of writers and artists.
After fresh strawberries in clotted cream and an odd tale of ancient sea monster gods Mr. Howard had quite forgotten his episode. But at the final desert course his vision went black. He felt his mind invaded and was helpless to it. It worked backwards through his life, dissecting him into bits of memory until it found those earliest: loyalty, friendship, obedience. Something flashed, adhered, and with shocking pain in his head, he snapped back. The room was empty, all evidence of the decadent feast gone. Butler and Housekeeper were the only ones in the room other than himself.
“Mr. Howard. Welcome to Eldwood Estate.” The whole manor resonated, jingling the china on the table. Welcome.
Mr. Howard uttered an incoherent shriek and heard laughter rattle in his mind. Butler ignored him. “You have been selected to be Eldwood’s Resident Artist. You will stay here, write, and present at events. You will have comfortable room and board, but may never leave. You are to do as your told; you wont really have a choice.” The Writer felt the truth of this in the mans flat words. It was there in that thing that had latched itself to the deep part of his brain. “But you can choose to be content.”
Writer ran for the door, but it slammed shut in his face and locked. The large windows also locked. “Please don’t try to leave" Butler’s voice was emotionless.
In desperation Writer grabbed a chair, intending to smash the glass. And froze, chair raised above him. His head seared with pain. Images flashed in his head of a man running, toward the brick wall, fingers brushing brick, the man imploding. Then exploding. There was nothing but agony. Do Not Try To Leave.
Over the weeks and months the thing in his head kept him dull, telling him to write, to feast, drink and be content. It was present everywhere, the whole house resonated with it. But occasionally, in waking nightmares, he would catch wafts of life before, and one day, perhaps soon, it would be too much.
The Shattered Soul
"Hey, help! I think someone's hurt, down there!"
There was a crushing weight and stench beyond death. "I will devour your soul piece…by…piece" a hiss in his ear. Sobbing, begging, bargaining, and one long aye-aye finger...
"Back there, cant you hear the whimpers? I am going for more help!" Gullible whole-souled fools.
That finger gouging into his eye socket, scooping out the bloody orb, popping it between serrated teeth. "I taste your weakness. Serve me, delay your utter destruction."
He felt no remorse at the screams in the dark. He felt nothing but dread of full payment coming due.
Practice for 100 word mirco-fiction challenge: harsh criticism welcome :)
Prompt" Genre: Drama. Action: giving a gratuity. Word: fact
"You don't have to leave a gratuity, those people get paid well enough, especially in this establishment." The valet returns the keys to a 1957 Aston Martin. It was routine: He paid, I left a tip, que lecture on socioeconomics, gumption, handouts... His words whisk away, blending with neon lights and palm fronds. I said nothing, not since the very first time. I had pointed out that he had tipped me when we met ($1000 tucked into a G-string rhinestone studded banana hammock). Scoffing he had replied, "oh honey, fact is, that was a down payment, not a tip."
There is no magic on mars
I was a child when humanity fled the Earth. The torn weather patterns and radiation and pollution poisoned land, water and sky forced humans to abandon a dying planet. But my kind were unprepared.
The ungifted had been building rockets and settlements on the moon and mars for years. Preparing for doomsday. We scoffed, proclaiming this the best possible end. The world would be left to the magic folk, and we would heal Earth with our guidance and superior wisdom. How naive those generations were, blind to their own tampering. How long had they pulled at the rain, here not there, harvested rare flora and fauna to extinction for love potions, folded under the land for an exploding population?
In the end it was all folly. Heads popped out of the sand, and we begged passage with the ungifted in their tooled metal ships driven by science and cobbled together with all the faults of the laborers fingers. Many refused to go, taking their chances with the angry earth rather than risk the vast and empty space to Mars. Who knows, perhaps they thrive there after all, carving out an eden for the remaining few. If not, I still think their fate was kinder than ours.
Some lost their minds on the journey. Even with long periods in cryo, the trip was long and the waking times spent in awe, tedium or fear. It was difficult to maintain the secrecy of our talents, especially among the young. On that rocket, I discovered I could make my little toy elephant trumpet and run. My first, and final, taste of magic. My father struck me, the first and only time, "Some one could have seen" his hissed words cut through the ringing in my cuffed ear. "You do not want that...I could not..." he held me close, weeping. Later I learned that a girl on another ship had been caught juggling fire and ice. They called her Witch and jettisoned her from an airlock. On another a mage killed all the ungifted, claiming the ship for magic folk alone. Fear of the other is easier to justify when the world goes tits up, and many medieval supersticians had risen in the end as billions of people looked for someone to blame.
I forget much, but the image of Mars on entry will always remain, the orange arc of dust and mountains, splotched by blue-green bubbles of human settlements. They bloomed like pustules on diseased dog.
When the air locks hissed everyone rejoiced. And then despaired. As we sucked in our first breaths of filtered martian air the magic left. It was like a simultaneous outpouring of vomit and tears, but of the soul.
Many went mad and took their own lives before the first nights end, the rest did our best to forget what we had once been.
Some say our power was bound to the Earth, others believed the ungifted poisoned us. I think it is our penance and punishment.