It was The Anniversary of the Zombie Apocalypse Take 2, and aside from Missing An Eye, it hadn’t been the House Of Bones they’d been expecting. It was beyond Insatiable Doubt really, that The Old Sawmill had remained virtually untouched. Whispers in the Wall advised them, that All That Lies Broken was The Jagged Piece outside the door. As they finally ventured out into the remains of the world, cheers surrounded them. The Sound of Pride of those who’d survived.
Prompt: Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie, Sunday Writing Prompt, #232 – It’s All In The Title. Task: Choose one or more of the titles below and fashion a poem or story around it – The Old Sawmill, Insatiable Doubt, The Missing Eye, House of Bones, Zombie Apocalypse Take 2, The Jagged Piece, All That Lies Broken, Whispers in the Wall, The Sound of Pride.
Death by Roses, she thought, Death by Roses. What kind of a name for a perfume was that anyway?!
She reigned in her thoughts and tried to focus on the array before her. It didn’t help that the rows upon rows of delicate little bottles stood behind locked glass doors. She strained to see the names and brands, but ‘Death by Roses’ continued to elude her.
Exasperated, she finally decided to ask someone. If she didn’t get the right one, Heaven help her! What would be a minor catastrophe for most, would become a major catastrophe for her sister. Drama queen! she raged internally, while externally, she smiled, and asked the overly quiffed, but pleasant enough looking sales assistant, for, well…assistance.
“It’s right over here,” the girl indicated, with a sweep of her carefully painted fingernails.
Following her, the girl reached for a key attached to a stretchy chain on her pants.
“We have to keep these cabinets locked,” she stated apologetically, “you know, for the, um, shoplifters.” She lowered her voice as she uttered the last word, unnecessarily, as surely, the shoplifters wouldn’t care.
She picked up a small, blush coloured bottle. It was elaborately shaped into a rose; quite exquisite really. However, in contrast to the pretty pale glass was a black, thorned stem that wrapped around the bottle, culminating in a large thorn that formed the cap. How had she missed it? she wondered. It was altogether, a grotesque juxtaposition of a bottle. And aptly named. The black stem appeared to be choking the rose.
“It’s one of our most popular fragrances,” the sales assistance continued, “would you like to try it?”
“Er, no, thanks. It’s a gift.”
The girl beamed, “Oh wonderful! A present! Shall I have it gift wrapped for you then?”
“Yes please,” she replied, feeling grateful that she didn’t have to attend to that tedious task as well. Her sister would appreciate the professional touch, rather than her own clumsy fingers struggling with sticky tape and awkwardly presenting the perfume in a misshapen, mess of wrapping paper.
Finally making an exit from the crowded shopping mall, she breathed a sigh of relief that her the last of her Christmas shopping was done.
Until, she realised she couldn’t remember which entrance she had parked her car. Dammit! she cursed. Why hadn’t she been paying attention?
She began trawling through her memory; trying to recall landmarks, colours, shops, anything that would help her. She walked and walked, row after row. She was positive it was in this area. Maybe it had been stolen, she thought, dreading the idea.
Frustrated, and not knowing what else to do, she went to the concierge desk to ask for help.
“Have you checked the other levels?” the young man suggested, “this happens quite a bit, you know.”
Of course! Stupid!
“No. I’ll do that now, thank you,” she replied sheepishly.
At this rate, she would miss her family’s Christmas Eve celebrations altogether! Starting to panic a little, she trekked to the floor above, and searched the car park once more. Still, no car.
However, on the third level, there it was. She sighed. Her trusty, red sedan, was patiently waiting, right where she had left it.
Tossing her packages in the back, she opened the door and jumped in. She hastily put the key in the ignition, threw the car into reverse and hurried out of the car park. She winced as her tyres screeched on the glossy grey concrete.
“You’re late!” her sister pointed out as she opened the door.
“Nice to see you too, sis,” she retorted sarcastically. “Sorry, it’s been a day. You know?”
“Yes, I know,” her sister conceded, “Christmas Eve is always crazy. I don’t know why you leave these things to the last minute!”
Because I work two jobs and only get one day off a fortnight, she thought, through gritted teeth. Deciding to ignore the admonishment, she laughed nervously, said nothing and walked through the door, to join the rest of her family.
The minute she saw her mother, father, grandparents and brother, she immediately relaxed. They rushed to greet her and as they hugged and kissed, she thought, what a prickly rose her sister was. Indeed, it was a fitting choice for her perfume.
They had waited for her, and hadn’t eaten yet, so the family convened to the table, said grace and commenced their Christmas Eve traditions. They ate roast turkey, complete with all the trimmings, drank lots of wine and all pretended they couldn’t possibly fit in dessert, before giving into protestations from the host. They talked and talked and caught up on all that was news in each other’s lives. They reminisced and spoke of friends and family no longer here. They spoke of good times and of bad, but also how they’d banded together to get through. This is what Christmas is about, she thought happily.
Next, they moved to the lounge room for the family Kris Kringle. As they started to give and receive gifts, butterflies began to dance in her stomach. She hoped her sister would be pleased. She held her breath as her sister grasped the small package in her hands.
“What beautiful wrapping!” she exclaimed. “Did you do this yourself?”
“Yes,” she found herself lying. She hated how her sister knew that she hadn’t.
“Ooooooh! Death by Roses!!!” she squealed excitedly. “How did you know?”
Rolling her eyes, she gave her mother a look, and smiled, “Just a hunch. Glad you like it.”
Her sister quickly extracted the thorn covered bottle and uncapped the lid. She squirted and sprayed liberally, her wrists and neck, before rushing around the room and spraying everyone else.
“Isn’t this scent divine? Just to die for!” she gushed.
Feeling pleased her sister loved her gift, she didn’t notice at first. It was subtle. A rushing of red to her face, and quickening of her pulse. She thought it may be the wine.
But then the coughing started, and the tightening of her throat. Just like when she was younger. Her eyes began to swell and bug in her face. Her lips began to tingle, and welts appeared on her skin.
She heard her mother scream, and then someone else say, “I thought she’d grown out of her anaphylaxis!”
Just before the world went black, she had one last fleeting thought…
My psychologist talked me through the candle meditation, and promised it would work to renew my focus and relieve my stress. She spoke in a hushed, low voice, “Now stare at the flickering light and let it absorb into your third eye. Take ten deep breaths and keep your intent on the flame. When you close your eyes, you should still be be able to see the image in your mind. Hold it as long as you can and when it fades open your eyes again, feeling refreshed and focused.
I did as she said and she was right! I could see the flame in my mind. I felt relaxed and calm as I honed in and held it in my mind’s eye. But when I opened my eyes, something was horribly wrong. I could not see anything else but thousands upon thousands of flames, reaching into the endless dark.
I screamed and reached out my hands towards the space were she’d been, as the doctor laughed psychotically, closing the door behind her…
I emerged from the artificial cocoon of the Sunshine Plaza in Maroochydore and straight away, noticed the sun was gone and it had started to drizzle. Also, I had no umbrella.
Now I know, getting stuck in the middle of a downpour is not everyone’s cup of tea, but I had two reasons for deciding to walk out into that rain. One, I needed the exercise, and climbing up the hill to my accommodation would do the trick; and two, I just needed to FEEL something again. I’d been numb ever since the break up and stumbling through every day as though my life was no more than a dream. That was the reason I’d chosen to holiday here on my own. I wanted to discover my ‘spark’ again.
Despite the overcast skies, the late March day was warm. As I began the 2km trek to the hostel, the rain tumbled from the low grey clouds. Each drop that fell on my skin was cool, silky and invigorating; igniting my senses and tickling my pores. I tilted my head back, closed my eyes and allowed the spray to sprinkle over my face. I felt like a kid again.
Smiling, for the first time in months, I subconsciously picked up my pace and started a half stroll-half skipping move, and began to hum. I knew I probably looked like a crazy, drowned rat, but I felt alive! A bud of hope began to swell in my chest – maybe everything would be ok after all.
I stepped over a puddle, lifted my head, and wiped my sticky hair out of my eyes. I heard footsteps pounding the pavement and they were moving my way. Another person who liked singing and walking in the rain! I said to myself gleefully. My lips started to form a greeting when the words froze on my tongue. My face fell and my stomach plummeted through the cold cracks of the pavement.
It couldn’t be! I thought, as an all too familiar figure ran towards me.
But it was. Of course it was.
He had always been fanatical about keeping trim, and a little rain had never stopped him before. I wondered what the chances were, that out of all the holiday destinations in Australia, out of the twelve months of the year, out of the thirty-one days in the month, out of the 24 hours in the day, and out of the 60 minutes leading up this exact moment, that we would cross paths? Surely one in a mill…or even less!
He strode past me as though I were nothing. His face as scornful as a king mocking his lowliest servant.
They say love is blind and I wish that were true. For then, I would never have known it was he who swiped my blossoming hope and crushed it in the dirt.
The autumn chill descended over the town and with it came rot and ruin. But not from above like the people expected. No, it came from below.
They had dug the grave too shallow, and the evil sinews of his rotting muscle and bone seeped into the ground, anchoring itself deep within the soil.
Every crop would fail.
All the flowers would wilt.
Grass would die and birds would no longer sing.
The trees would lose their leaves and not regrow them come spring.
He had stained the cheeks of the earth as unholy ground.
The town; it was already dying too.
The seed of his devilishness would haunt them for decades to come. Though they had rid the town of his physical presence, his hellish influence would continue. He had kept his dying curse – Youcan never get rid of me…
There once was a castle in the middle of a field. It loved being the centre of attention. The grass bowed to it in the breeze, and travellers were drawn to it, like a beacon. For many years it was so.
But slowly, a town began to spring up around the castle and the field disappeared. At first, the castle was glad for the company, but in time, the town became a city and the castle was swallowed up by the busy-ness around it. Sometimes, it would still catch a glimpse of travellers’ eyes, but now they hurried past in their vehicles. The castle felt sad that in the midst of such hustle, it could feel so lonely.
Author’s note: Sometimes my writing is based on my real life experiences. This is one of those stories and is an actual account of a costume I was responsible for, whilst working at an exclusive all girls college a few years ago.
Oh, how I wish it were fiction…
The girls usually looked like seraphic supplicants, in their polished shoes, ecru stockings, petticoats and navy blue tunics. My job on the dramatic arts team, was to source a neutral, yet eye-catching costume for the production. I didn’t want to squander the funds, and bent over backwards to find a freely-licenced image and reasonably priced t-shirt manufacturer.
As I unpacked the boxes, I realised with alarm, the disastrous outcome of my work.
(However it did tickle the amusement of at least one stranger in the crowd, as 150 female students took their final bow, I could hear his guffaws from backstage…)
* supplicant (noun) – A supplicant is a person who prays to God or respectfully asks an important person to help them or to give them something that they want very much.
^ seraphic (adjective) – characteristic of or resembling a seraph or seraphim|seraphim:an angelic being, regarded in traditional Christian angelology as belonging to the highest order of the ninefold celestial hierarchy, associated with light, ardor, and purity.
^^ ecru (adjective) – the light beige color of unbleached linen
Prompt: Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie, Wordle #173;
and also Sammi Cox, A Month Of Mini Writing Challenges, Day 25
Task: Write a story in 75 words or less about an encounter with a stranger.
The sand squishes beneath my toes. I feel the warmth of each grain. I inhale deeply and, simultaneously both smell and taste the salty air. I stretch my arms above my head and listen to the small waves lap against the shoreline.
I open my eyes; sigh at the recreated memory, and get back to work.
The policemen lined the streets, fully kitted up in riot gear. The sun beat down on the officers, who were diligently waiting; sweating profusely under their heavy protective clothing. Anticipation filled the air and a small crowd of rubberneckers* had gathered.
The motorcade was late.
Two officers, broke formation to see about the delay. Anticipation turned to disbelief as the two investigating officers informed their peers he had never left the house.
Intelligence had been wrong – the attack wasn’t to take place in the car, but in the cat. As he’d patted his beloved pet, the bomb had exploded them both…
Half spluttering, half laughing, I emerged from under the wave. It had been a big one! I turned to see my husband successfully catching it all the way to shore. I gave him a thumbs up and looked for the next set, swelling further out to sea.
It was a magical day for boogie boarding. The sun was warm, but not too hot. The water was clear cerulean blue. And most importantly, the tide was full on high. I spied a beauty rolling in and positioned my body ready. Kick, kick. Legs pumping and then elation, as I felt the lift of my board taking hold.
They’d been warned the house was in a flood zone when they’d purchased the property. The couple weren’t bothered though – the house was on stilts that kept it at least 10 metres off the ground.
They peered out the windows, hearts sinking as the water level continued to rise. The Beareau of Meterology predicted this would be the worst flood in 100 years. The couple had taken precautions – sealing the windows and doors with waterproof tape. But they knew that it wouldn’t be a matter of a few leaks; more likely engulfment of the entire home.
The flood’s peak was still six hours away. The husband and wife deliberated what to do. Evacuation was no longer an option, as the emergency services had told them yesterday.
“I’ve got the dinghy, maybe we can get out with that?” the man said.
She didn’t need to be asked twice. “I’ll pack a bag with some of our valuables.”
They launched the dinghy out the front door. Counting their blessings, the couple paddled for safety.
As they neared the banks they could feel the waves of a large marine vehicle coming up swiftly behind them. To their surprise, they were overtaken by their now floating house…
* Trigger warning – This story contains content about the rape of a minor, and suicide *
She stepped out into the bitter night air. The wind whipped her hair across her face, stinging her cheeks; much like the slap she’d received earlier had done. The rain beat down onto her bruised body and she shuddered at the thought of what she had to do. She drew her baby closer to her breast.
She thought it might have been different, if she had given it time. That perhaps her family could have accepted it. But she realised sadly, that she should have known better, that no matter what, reputation and pride was more important to her father. It was inevitable that anything less would perforate her from him. She cringed as she recalled her mother’s weak, trembling figure standing dutifully by her father’s side. She remembered her vague hope that she might come to her rescue. Foolish! It all seemed so irrelevant now. They even said it was her fault; that she asked for it, but she couldn’t understand how a fifteen year old girl could possibly do that.
The rain grew heavier now and lightning streaked across the midnight sky, highlighting for a brief instant her ghost-like figure moving through the night. Her baby’s wail was one with the wind and she was tired. So tired.
How did it all start? She could barely remember and didn’t really want to. She had been sent away to boarding school, for a “life-changing Year 9 experience”. Boy were they right! she thought bitterly. From the first day she’d arrived, he had begun visiting her at night. She didn’t like what he did to her, and knew it must be wrong, because he threatened if she ever told anyone, he would kill her. She hated him so much and luckily, when his body was found, they had thought it was a suicide. But still, he had lived on – a new life created inside her.
The infant had no name. She resented it almost as much as she resented its father, but she acknowledged it wasn’t the baby’s fault. People in the town had looked upon her with such pity and disdain, that when she arrived at her parent’s doorstep, she should have expected their disgust too. At first, her mother just cried, while her father shouted names like “whore” and issued her the first of many blows. She smirked as she recalled that before that day, he’d always called her ‘daddy’s little girl’. He demanded that either, she leave or get rid of the child, proclaiming her “a disgrace to the family”. The decision wasn’t hard to make.
In a muted voice, her mother suggested the kindest way, and so the young girl kissed her baby goodbye. The wind howled through the trees and the water lashed against the banks of the river. She looked upwards into the rain and cried to God for forgiveness.