Disaster

subway, disaster

Nine lives hurtle towards their deaths on the subway completely unaware. They are annoyed that the train is so packed. A woman stands in her uncomfortable heels on her commute home from work. She curses the tourists and wishes the couple behind her would shut up. The couple talks about the zoo, the best zoo that they’ve ever been to, and about how they will take their children there once they have kids. The woman hides her disdain in her book; the couple isn’t even engaged.

Across the aisle, a young man watches this unfold. He turns his music off and listens, waiting for the woman to snap. Sitting beside the young man is a dad. He has to get off at the next stop to pick up his daughter. His husband will worry if he’s late. The dad pushes his glasses up his face and readjusts his grip on his brief case. He’s ridden the subway for months now, but he can’t get used to sitting this close to strangers. The smell of bodies packed in stale air makes him sick.

They are almost to the stop. They don’t make it. The newspapers report that the train derailed, but no one can explain why.

The most religious woman on that train, the one with the short, kinky curls, would have said that it was their time. She would’ve sworn that she felt it, something off. She would’ve said that she’s at peace.

I call bullshit. There were three kids on that train: one bringing donuts home for his mom’s birthday and two siblings heading to a baseball game. Why end their lives before they lived?

Maybe it’s the guilt. I was on that train, got off one stop before the problem. One stop. I chose to transfer early. That’s the difference between life and death, one choice. What if I had chosen wrong?

Anyway, the newspapers didn’t disclose the names. That section of track shut down for awhile. All of the trains stopped for 24 hours, more in fear of another problem than in remembrance. It became a thing across the country. These incidents always become things. Things to be dealt with, things to recover from. Problems and lawsuits and carelessness.

________________________________________________________________________________

Like this story? Share and read on: http://www.wedbushwrite.com/anecdote-church-hymns/

Links and Gaps

time, hypnosis, magic

Some people crave attention, food, love, space, adventure. I crave autonomy. Everyday I wake at the same time. I go to work. I go to the same bar after work (during the week, rail drinks are $3). What’s the point?

Déjà vu is a daily occurrence. It feels like I’m a wind up toy. Someone else winds me up and I repeat the same actions until the cog stops.

I try to do things differently. I tried a new Thai place, but it tasted bland. On a Wednesday night, I went to a downtown club. Don’t tell me that it was a stupid idea to go in the middle of the week cause I already know that. I didn’t meet anyone new, despite my best efforts. I also tried an art class just for a new experience. None of these things stuck. It was too much effort to keep doing them, like I was fighting myself and my routine.

***

Today I’m going to a palm reader. I figured that I could use some magic. As I step into Madam Gaia’s parlor, my body heats up. My armpits sweat. I never sweat when I’m nervous.

Madam Gaia, crystal blue eyes piercing my soul, takes my hand. Her entire forehead furrows. “This is unusual. Please sit.”

Blue silk sheaths the windows of the parlor. In the center of the room stands a wooden table shaped like an hour glass. The armchair on the left is deep purple and Victorian. The one on the right is white wood with a wicker seat. I take the wood chair. Strangely, Madam Gaia’s eyes are the only thing that gives away her fortune teller profession. Her dark hair is straight. She doesn’t wear beads, only a simple blue dress that touches the floor.

I rest my hands palms up on the table, but Madam Gaia does not look down at the lines. She places her own hands on mine. “Have you visited any shaman or spiritual journey people before seeing me?”

I’m not sure what that includes, but I shake my head.

“No fortune tellers? No self-proclaimed witches?”

“No.”

“Have you met any?”

“Not to my knowledge. What’s going on?”

Madam Gaia smiles and my apprehension disappears. “Nothing. We’ll get it sorted out.” Still not looking at my hands, she holds up a finger. “Stare at the tip, please. Good. Now, do you see the grandfather clock behind me?”

How had I not noticed that before? It’s standing to the right of the door, flowers carved all across the top.

“Watch the pendulum.”

Is the metal gold or silver? With every swing, the light hits it differently.

“Sleep.”

***

Madam Gaia’s parlor has cooled significantly since I first walked in. I’m actually cold. Madam Gaia points to my life line and tells me how my life is going to turn around. I feel lighter, but something prickles at my mind. “What happened?”

“What do you mean?” Madam Gaia asks.

“There’s something…I don’t remember.”

“Do you think this room is too bare?”

“What?” The only furniture in the room is the table and two chairs. It does look silly.

“I’m thinking about purchasing an antique grandfather clock.”

I glance around the room. “It would pull everything together and look good beside the window.”

Madam Gaia smiles, and my agitation slips away. It probably wasn’t important.

________________________________________________________________________________

Like this story? Share it and read on: http://www.wedbushwrite.com/play-victim/

Alice in the Wrong Land

rusty key

Green and brown smudges zip by the train windows, but Alice can’t relax. She’s been running for months, avoiding contact with people. She actually can’t remember the last time she had a conversation that moved beyond ordering food or buying a ticket. Most people would’ve gone crazy by now, but once she stops talking it’s difficult to start again.

Alice leans her head against the window, her platinum blonde hair sticking to her sweaty forehead. She turns a rusty key over in her hands. She needs it to open a portal home. The world she’s trapped in is identical to her own, but the other Alice died two years ago. Two years ago, this Alice crashed her car on purpose and lived. The other Alice succeeded.

Mirrors are supposed to be portals to other worlds, so people say. Alice didn’t come through a mirror or step through a wardrobe; she visited a fortune teller.

***

“Pick a card. Any card.” The woman said. Bangles jangled on the woman’s wrists. Beads hung from her neck. The incense made Alice’s head throb.

Alice’s father had suggested the trip. He believed in aura, tarot, and spiritual healing. He thought that Alice needed to lighten up. Alice figured it couldn’t hurt.

She tried to pull a card from the deck, but it resisted. “Does this usually happen?”

The fortune teller’s eyes sparkled. “The cards know you don’t believe. They’re testing you.”

Alice doubted that. She wiggled a card free. Then two more.

The spread was simple: a card for the past, one for the present, and one for the future. Alice didn’t remember the exact cards, but she understood the gist. Her past was fraught with struggle. Her present was the calm before the storm, and the future held a great transformation. Then the fortune teller had let Alice out the back way through the garden, and after the gate closed, Alice realized that it was snowing in July. That was the start of it.

***

The train pulls into  a station and stops to let more passengers on. The sun is setting, flooding the compartments with golden light. Alice has twenty minutes until she’s back to the fortune teller’s. The woman refused to help without the key. Alice didn’t see what was so important about it. It was abandoned in the hollow of a tree.

As Alice slips the key into her pocket, a man notices and walks towards her. She gets up to avoid him, but another man is coming at her from the opposite direction. The first one crosses his arms over his wrinkled tie. “Can I see your key?”

She stares out the window. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Fine. We’ll take it from you,” the second man says.

She considers giving it to them. Instead, she sidesteps back into her compartment and drops the key out the window. She’s tired of running.

________________________________________________________________________________

Like this story? Read on: http://www.wedbushwrite.com/bloody-pearls-a-world-of-delicacy/

Beautiful Mask

witch, magic

By far the weirdest hallway in the Boarding House for Unusual Witches was the Hall of the Famous. The long hall connected the dormitory and living spaces to the classrooms. Oil paintings of past headmistresses hung on the walls. Busts of famous alumni lined the edges of the red carpet runner. My first day there I knew I’d be among them. I just didn’t know that it would be like this.

I make a face as the sculptor shapes my nose. He sighs again. “Please, keep still.”

It was ridiculous really. I didn’t do anything bust-worthy.

I’d time traveled. Dangerous. I shouldn’t have done it, but I was successful. I saved the library of the boarding school from burning down. Let me clarify, I overheard the plot to burn the library because I had slipped out of bed after hours. I ignored it, thought it was a joke. When the library went up in flames, I broke into the headmistress’s office, shrunk the Wheel of Time (a highly important magical object), stole it, used it to go back in time, and stopped the girl who set the fire by beating her up instead of telling on her.

Yet, seventeen-year-old me gets to stand there having a bust made of my face while the other girl loses her powers. I purse my lips. The sculptor stands up. “I think we need a break.”

If the school wasn’t paying him so much, he would’ve quit.

As the sculptor washes his hands in the art room sink, I step out into the corridor. The girl, Angela, is in the headmistress’s office receiving the enchantments that will suppress her powers. The corridor is empty. Casting an invisibility spell over myself, I hurry to the headmistress’s office up in the West Tower.

The door is sealed. I feel the magic as I reach for the doorknob. I mutter an unlocking spell in vain. The headmistress has doubled security since my break-in. I close my eyes and reach out through the door to Angela’s mind. “Angela, I’m here to save you.” I repeat it over and over.

Then a faint voice whispers back in my head, “How? It’s too late. The headmistress has already started.”

“Help me unlock the door.”

“I don’t have much magic.”

“Just help.” I try the unlocking spell again and I feel the spells falling away. The door swings open.

The headmistress stops mid-spell. “What’s going on here?”

I step into the room. “Angela’s only seventeen. You can’t take her magic away.”

“She almost committed a federal offense. That library contains original books that don’t have copies.”
“I committed multiple offenses: breaking and entering, burglary, meddling with time, assault. Do the ends really justify the means?”
The headmistress smooths her emerald robes. Her mismatched eyes (one blue, one brown) narrow. “Would you like your powers bound as well?”
“I think that Angela should be given a warning, ma’am. I’m sure this has scared her straight.”
“Ends never justify the means, but intention is always important. As courageous and stupid as it was for you to argue on Angela’s behalf, my decision is final. Leave before I have you removed.”
Angela’s pale face and wide eyes try to convince me to stay, but I’m selfish. I didn’t save the library for the sake of knowledge, I saved it because I’d hidden a family heirloom in there hoping that someone would find it. Eventually someone will possess that dangerous crystal. I leave Angela to her fate.
_____________________________________________________________________________
Like this story? Comment and read on: http://www.wedbushwrite.com/the-summer-solstice-spell/

A Vampire’s Eternity

Sam stood in a capsule like room with three doors; she had to choose where she’d live for all of eternity. She was lucky really, a vampire with the ability to adapt. Most vampires picked the city bustling with humans and parties. Sam loved the lights and the towering buildings. She loved the excitement.

But she also liked the country: the open space, grass rolling for miles, the humidity filling her car as she drove through the countryside with the windows down. But it was boring. Not enough people. Plus, she couldn’t walk down the street and hold her girlfriend’s hand. Sure, they might get looks and snide comments anywhere, but in the country, a whole small town could snub you. Sam wondered where her girlfriend had chosen. Maybe they should’ve talked about it before now.

Then there was the suburbs, not the nauseating 1950’s suburbs with the nosy moms and the bubblegum pop songs. These suburbs were green lawns, lines of trees, ranch houses filled with modern families and couples. Sometimes the neighborhoods had block parties. Sam liked the idea of having a backyard and still being close to stores and bars. It wasn’t the city, but it was something.

She reached for the door to the suburbs, white wood with a gold door knob. Then she noticed a fourth door behind her. It was grey with no handle. She pushed it in. The space beyond it was dark. She stepped inside. Lights flicked on by her feet, illuminating a path. She followed it to the end where a control panel sat. None of the buttons were labeled, so she pushed a random white rectangular one. A 360 degree screen lit up around her. A movie started playing, Sam’s sixteenth birthday party when she had almost kissed that guy. She pushed another button and another memory started playing. Half way through her college graduation memory, a notification popped up on the screen.

“Congratulations! You have chosen to live in your memories.”

The door back to the choosing room was sealed.

_______________________________________________________________________________
Like this story? Comment and read on: http://www.wedbushwrite.com/play-victim/

Violations

school, dress code
Image from Pexels

The rules were written on the walls of the middle school in the cafeteria.

Shorts and skirts must be three inches above the knee, not shorter.

No bra straps showing.

No tank tops.

Standard regulation dress code rules written in blue letters across a yellow background, the school colors. I went to middle school here and was back as a substitute. The rules weren’t unreasonable. Middle schools always have the strictest dress codes.

I watched the hallway as students scuttled into the English class that I was teaching. The preppy, polo-wearing choir kids got to class early. The band kids came late. It was standard.

It was May. Everyone passed notes. Everyone wanted to be done. The sunlight streaming through the window by my desk made my eyes tired. I played the Shakespeare movie like I was supposed to and closed the blinds. It didn’t help.

A girl came in late. Her neon yellow bra strap slipped out from under her t-shirt sleeve. I motioned for her to pull it up as she took her seat. As soon as she moved it, it slid again, a tightening issue. I waved her to my desk and wrote out a dress code violation slip.

Ms. ____________________

Time and Date:

Violation:

I set the slip on the corner of my desk. “Fix your strap, please.”

She stared at the piece of paper. “I’m sorry. I’m trying.”

She didn’t seem like a troublemaker. Maybe I should’ve let it go. I handed her a restroom pass. “Try adjusting the strap length.”

Red faced, the girl hurried to the bathroom. When she returned, the strap was where it belonged, hidden.

We paused the movie after Petruchio tamed Kate. I flicked the lights on. “Your teacher will be back next class and you will finish the movie. Your final is on Monday.”

As the kids rushed to the bus, a male teacher stopped the girl from earlier. Her strap had peeked out again in her hurry to go home. He handed her a violation slip. I should’ve stepped in, fought for her. But the delinquent girl crumbled the paper in her hand and went out to the bus.

______________________________________________________________________________

Liked this story? Comment and read more like it: http://www.wedbushwrite.com/binary-no-gray-area/

Journal Entry From a Lady’s Maid

Lady Cora's Castle

*Warning: This story contains graphic images and Lady Cora has no relation Downton Abbey’s Cora Crawley*

I have worked for Lady Cora for ten years, but today I saw something dark. The lady is into mischief and witchcraft. It was not surprising to me to find parts of animals and vials of blood in her chambers. However, when I went to change the sheets today, I almost slipped on the crimson liquid. The floor looked as if it had been mopped with the stuff. Confused, I called out for Lady Cora to be sure of her well-being. There was no answer.

Proceeding forward, I stripped the empty bed. The sheets were dry and white despite the surrounding mess. Keeping the dirty sheets tucked under my arm, I put on the new ones. Then I grabbed the knife from the bedside drawer (she kept it there for ritual purposes) and went into the bathroom to reassure myself. The blood trails continued into the stone bathroom, where the mirror was cracked and the wooden tub appeared full. The beads around the knife blade rubbed against my hand, increasing my anxiety.

I had to get closer to see inside of the tub. Red water sloshed around in the tub. Something bobbed up and down. Two unfamiliar women lay face down in the water, their bodies split in half.

A voice came from behind me, “I don’t see a bed in here. Why do you have my knife?” Lady Cora grabbed the blade and wrenched it away, slicing her hand in the process.

“I’m so sorry, Ma’am. I wanted to make sure you weren’t hurt.” I don’t know how I spoke through the fear building in my throat.

Lady Cora, deep blue eyes flaming, ran her bloody hand over her green silk dress. Her raven black hair was piled perfectly on her head. If she killed these women, then it must’ve been sometime in the night.

Lady Cora put her hand on my shoulder. “Do not touch my things. Now go fetch the gardener. Tell him we’re planting today and to get his shovel out.”

“Yes, Ma’am.” I started fast for the door.

“And you remember the most important rule here?”

I stopped just beside the bed, taking comfort in being in a different room. “No question. No gossip.”

Lady Cora’s footsteps came up on me. I’d seen Lady Cora handle caged animals, but I’d never empathized with them until now. She stood where she could reach me if she wanted to. “That’s two rules.”

I held my breath, dread filling my heart. Every muscle twitched, waiting for her to grab me and use the knife. Lady Cora was known for cutting servants with or without reason. The only solace (if it could be called that) was her mercy. She never killed servants.

She laughed a little. “You may go.”

It doesn’t take long for lady’s maids to understand that laughter is not a cause for relief. I left her chambers in utter fear, shaking so hard I almost tripped over the sheets. I thought to ask someone for help. The seamstress may take pity on me, but anyone I tell, I endanger. People don’t take too kindly to that. And running means the dogs or the archers or the knights. So I write and I wait.

Did you like this story? Leave a comment or continue reading. The next story is about a woman named Andrea who believes she is a witch held captive because of her dark powers.  http://www.wedbushwrite.com/ancient-dark/

Snow White Ash

The kingdom of Ether hadn’t had snow in over a hundred years. They’d been transitioning between spring and summer, all warm weather all the time. King Handel had been content with this, until his little girl, Princess Syrina, said something. “Daddy, what’s snow?”

They’d been eating breakfast, and she’d had a book on her lap under the table. She was always studying something she wasn’t supposed to be. This time she’d found a book about a kingdom far away, a place perpetually cold and snowy. Her father took the book away. “Shouldn’t you be reading about the history of Ether?”

“But it’s so boring. I want to know about other places. Why doesn’t it snow here?”

“Before you were born, it snowed every year.” King Handel didn’t know why it had stopped. No one did.

Princess Syrina stared out the window at the cheery, blue sky. “Can we make it snow? Is it supposed to snow?”

“I’ll see what we can do.”

***

That night King Handel journeyed out of the castle to visit the most powerful being in Ether. She’d existed long before humans, maybe longer than the elves. She was the Balancer and it was her job to ensure the balance of nature. King Handel had come to her before, so she was not surprised when he came to her again at her cave in the mountains. He bent his knee for her. “Ether has only had summer and spring for the past eight years. We need winter and fall.”

The Balancer stayed in the shadows, but her white and black dragons slid forward. “If you needed it, then I would’ve already stepped in.”

“My daughter wants snow.”

“I’m not changing the weather based on the whims of a child.”

“What if I can make you an offer? I can give you anything you want.”

“I don’t want anything.” The Balancer and her dragons began to retreat back into their cave.

“I can give you fifty souls within the next twenty years.” King Handel could send troops to fight in a foreign war. He could promise them riches. Everyone would jump at the chance. Fifty men wouldn’t be a detrimental loss.

The Balancer hesitated. “I don’t want the souls of fifty soldiers. I want ten soldiers, ten women, ten elves, ten dragons, and ten children within the year.”

King Handel had paid a steeper price before. They shook on it.

***

Long story short, King Handel sent ten soldiers to capture and kill ten elves. They succeeded, but the celebration was short. King Handel poisoned the celebratory wine. Then he sent a trusted servant to steal ten dragons eggs from an old palace at the far reaches of Ether. The hardest was the women and children, which he rounded up and burned alive for “treason.” They didn’t scream. Snow mixed in with their ashes, all falling from the sky, bringing Princess Syrina her first snow.

Anecdote: Church Hymns

Church hymns, the organ specifically, drew me to St. Paul’s. I’m not a religious person, but most people say that, don’t they?

The soft voices sung something that blended into the music, words lost in pitch. My fingers wrapped around the cold brass handle. I opened the heavy, wood doors. Warm light filled the foyer. The ushers smiled and allowed me to pass. Most of the pews were empty. I dipped two fingers into the huge, gold basin of holy water at the back and made the sign of the cross. I was raised Catholic, but that was the first time I’d entered a church in ten years.

I chose one of the back pews. The priests didn’t seem to notice. The choir stopped. The lead priest went on with his sermon. “Jesus is the way to God. Jesus is God.”

The sparse parish recited something, mumbling. I mouthed random words. The parish stood. I stood late. The parish knelt. I knelt, waiting for the chorus to sing again. I didn’t have to wait long.

Soprano voices soared and tittered like birds. Altos and tenors carried the accessible notes, the ones the parish sung back. The bass held everything together, held me together. Music touches what sermons can’t reach, a deeper spirituality.

Nothing brought me into that church that day. Everyone I loved was alive. No one was sick. My life had no troubles. But I needed it. My soul lacked something. Those hymns pulled me up higher, made me stand taller, gave me a reserve of strength that I would need. They helped me a year later when I lost my grandma, the real Catholic in my family. She had almost become a nun. We were supposed to go to the theater together that summer. Plans change.

When the Stars Fall: Part One

Was it the dark undertones to the lullabies that made them so horrifying? Or was it the children’s refusal to listen? Whatever it was that year, the stars started falling from the sky. People thought there was an abundance of shooting stars. They thought nothing. Then they noticed the dark spots, bald patches void of stars. How were they to fix it?

People did what people do, panic. They left the mess for us to clean up. Fair folk always clean up. One night we tucked the world into bed. Not a single human woke. Then we set to work. We stole four human children: a baby, a toddler, a child, and one on the edge of womanhood. It’s women that always pay.

Do not accuse us of murder. We do not stand on trial. We do not listen to you. Without us, the world would be doomed. We offered the children to heaven, and heaven accepted. Their bodies rose to become stars. When the world woke, they did not remember. We’ve saved them hundreds of times and they never remember. It’s for the best.

***

I stand on trial accused of handing the above history to a mortal woman. I plead guilty. She deserved to know. Humans deserve to remember. We’ve never given them a chance.

The elders say I am wrong. They say that we gave humans many opportunities.

I say that we trust one. That she can make a difference.

They disagree. What makes her special?

She’s part fair folk.

***

Andromeda has been trusted. It is up to her not to screw this up. If she fails, the elders will sentence me to death. So be it. I am ready.