Bloody Pearls: Father's Business Enemy

Cynthia ignored me throughout dinner. I made faces at Perry the whole time trying to get him to laugh.

After the usual four courses, the orchestra struck up a dancing tune and everyone got up to dance. Perry asked me to dance with him and I complied. We hadn’t danced together since we were little at Cynthia’s wedding to some horrid drunkard who created a scene halfway through the reception ending in the shortest marriage I had ever witnessed.
At around 7:30 I was looking for my parents to remind them that they had prepared a speech for 8 o’clock, but they were no where to be found. I went to ask the bartender where they were, but he had no clue. Father’s business rival, Ed spun towards me on his barstool and said that he would look for them and that I should go enjoy the party. Then he chugged a whole glass of Scotch. I had never seen Ed drink before…

Bloody Pearls: The Ex-Wife

Please don’t ask me about that night again. I’ve already told you everything I can remember…Fine I suppose I’ll just tell you again since you don’t believe me.

Holmes, our butler, opened the doors at promptly six in the evening like usual. Father, Mother, and I greeted guests as they made their way into the ballroom. Perry didn’t come down until later. He didn’t help us greet. He went straight to the orchestra to help them set up. Father wasn’t happy about this, but he was glad that his son was attending the party so he compromised.

We ate dinner at 6:30 as usual in the banquet hall. I sat by Perry and Cynthia, Father’s ex-wife. She sits with her chest out and saunters around in slinky dresses. She’s in marketing, and as she knows, sex sells. I don’t know why Father divorced her. He refuses to talk about her, but he invites her everywhere because they are the same social circle which is really code for they have outrageous amounts of money.
Looking back on it Cynthia was more edgy than usual. She sloshed her glass of wine over her red silk dress and was laughing loudly at everything. She usually has no sense of humor. And her eyes darted constantly to Mother’s diamond wedding ring…

Bloody Pearls: A World of Delicacy

Ever since I can remember I’ve lived in a world of tinkling champagne glasses, twinkling chandeliers, and sweet string music played live in the corner while a sea of delicately dressed people stood talking over it. I flourished in my environment full of uncomfortable lace dresses and flowy blouses tucked into tailored skirts. I delighted in the ache in my feet after hours of socializing at parties in polished heels. I devoured highly sophisticated finger foods delicately like a woman should. And I simply couldn’t contain my excitement the day of my debutante ball.

My twin brother Perry is a different story. He hated everything about our stuffy, suffocating lifestyle. He ran around the yard in his church clothes and always unbuttoned his shirt sleeves. He was the pickiest eater and would eat only sweets on days that we hosted extravagant parties. Even now he refuses to make an appearance at them, but despite all his grumblings he has never made to run away.

Our father threatened to cut Perry off and kick him out on a daily basis, but he never did. Despite his business like air, our father was gooey on the inside.

Our mother never spoke about Perry’s disobedience. She was always busy with other things. She didn’t work, but she headed every committee at the country club and spent all the rest of her time shopping for high end clothes.

That night we were hosting Father’s Christmas Business Party in our newly polished ballroom. He never missed a chance to show off. I was particularly exuberant as Perry came down from his tower and joined the party. When I asked him why, he gave me a big hug and exclaimed, “I miss my dear sister and I would never miss a Christmas party! It’s my one exception to my boycott.”

“Since when?” I demanded.

“Since today,” He smiled popping a piece of white chocolate fudge into his mouth.

I wish he had come to every party, but he only came to that one and that one would be the last. That was the night our parents were murdered.

ACT= Apocalyptic, Cataclysmic, Terror

The day the world ended was the same day that I was taking the ACT. My pencil slipped out of my sweaty palm as I fired through math problems. I was just bubbling in the answer to question five when a slow rumble built up from the ground. I looked up to see heads bent over tests, so I buried my nose again. Then the room jumped. My head hit the stone cold ground and the desk fell on top of me.

“What’s going on?!”


Several girls screamed.

“Everyone remain calm!” The room advisor’s shook. We turned to her looking for answers, but her eyes were full of fear and confusion.

She walked to the window and looked outside. When she turned back around, the fear was gone. “It was just a little earthquake. I’m sure the building is stable. We will resume testing so that we can get it over with and go home.” She smiled straightening her hair.

“What about the earthquake? Won’t there be more tremors?” The kid behind me asked.

“If there are, they will be minor.” The room filled with the scraping of desks as we got to our feet and got back into position. The advisor’s heels clicked as she walked up and down the aisles straightening up our papers.

“Will we get more time because of the earthquake?” The kid behind me asked.

“I will check the testing instruction booklet and see if there is anything about earthquakes. For now, just assume the answer is no.”

The scratching of pencils began again and I started the next problem. I tried to focus, but my throat was dry and my hands were shaking. My answer didn’t match any of the multiple choice. I glanced up at the clock. Twenty minutes were left in the math section. I circled a random answer.

As the clock ticked on, the anxiety in the room grew. Everyone was braced for an aftershocks that never came.

Just as the advisor called time on the math section an ear splitting scream pierced the air. I jumped up. The scream spiked my heart rate, driving me over the edge. I had to get away from it.

I ran to the door. I could just take the ACT another time. I was only a junior after all. Blood pounded in my ears. I felt eyes follow me as I fled. I barreled down the steps and tripped on the last two. The screaming was getting louder. I jumped to my feet and immediately crumbled. My ankle throbbed beneath me. I was pretty sure that it was broken.

The screaming was getting closer. The pain in my ankle was nothing compared to the liquid fear pumping through my veins. I grabbed the railing and hauled myself to my feet. I could see the door just feet away from me. The sun outside was shining blindingly bright. I just had to make it out that door.

I took a step. Dark spots blotted the hallway. I leaned against the railing willing my vision to come back. When it finally did I saw the screamer. She, it must have been a she at one point because the shoes were bright pink, was reaching towards me with a raw, red hand. It was like her skin had been peeled away revealing blood red muscles. Her hair was thin not entirely concealing her bald spots. Her face was an indiscernible mess of molten flesh.

I bolted. My ankle rolled as I pushed out of the school doors. Collapsing onto the grass I breathed in the fresh spring air and choked. It felt like I was being burned alive. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t move. The heat was blustering. I felt my skin bursting into blisters. I would’ve screamed if I had, had any air to use.

I forced my eyes open and through the ashen, debris filled air, I saw the girl inside the school running away from the door. This was why she was screaming.

The Avenue: Like Fine Wine

I sipped on ginger ale as I settled down at The Avenue, my favorite underground bar, to scope out a good candidate to write about. I found them in a cozy, dimly lit corner towards the back. He rested his lacquered cane against the table and pulled the chair out for his wife. “Excuse me, sir and madam. I was wondering if I could have a quick word. I’m a writer you see and I write about people. I don’t write nonfiction pieces and I don’t use names. I just use people’s experiences. Would you mind if I ask you a few questions?”
The woman’s eyes lit up. “A writer. She sounds like you, Lloyd. Except she admits that her work is fiction.”
“You wound my heart, Penelope.” Lloyd winked and nodded to me. “Fire away, Miss. We have all the time in the world.”
I flipped open my grey notebook. “What did you think when you first met each other?”
Penelope’s eyes glossed over and a pleasant smile crossed her face. “He’s gossipy. I thought he was simply terrible when I first met him. All full of energy and jumping around like a frog.”
Lloyd chuckled. “I didn’t see her at first. I was too busy snapping photos of the fire. But when I did see her, I was so taken that I forgot my own name. She was stiff and proper looking, but her eyes were full of wonder. Her beautiful pale green eyes that showed me places I’d never been.”
I jotted a few notes down. “And what kinds of dates did you go on?”
“He took me on more adventures than I could count. One day he said that he wanted to travel the world with me, and I said that I’m more comfortable in my world of books. But he insisted that he wake up beside me every morning, that my eyes took him places unobtainable and so I showed him my writings. I’m a fiction writer like yourself.
“He read my work deep into the night and then woke me and asked me to marry him because, he said, that he had traveled everywhere in my writings and that the only place worth being would be wherever I am.” Penelope gazed over at Lloyd with eyes so full of tears of joy that I buried my nose in my notebook to pretend that I hadn’t noticed.
Lloyd cleared his throat, rested his wrinkled hand on Penelope’s, and turned to me. “She holds the world inside her head, and I am grateful that she shares it with me. We are kind of the same, me and her. We’re both explorers who go on adventures everyday even just on our way to the kitchen.”
“Our souls are made of the same stuff. It’s a miracle that we found each other.” Penelope whispered brushing tears from her eyes.
Lloyd patted Penelope’s hand and smiled at her with watery eyes of his own. “No, we would’ve found each other anyway because you and I would have conquered the world and traced the globe to find each other. That’s just how it is for the yearning hearts of dreamers.” Watching them communicate with just their eyes struck me and I closed my notebook. I couldn’t write this story. I didn’t know how to go about recreating a love like theirs. Sometimes life is too perfect for words. I tried to pin down stories like theirs, but something was always missing. Some things can’t be immortalized in writing and they don’t need to be because a star that burns so brightly in life will not be forgotten after darkness extinguishes the light.

The End of the Parchment

Rambling discombobulated words scrawl across endless notebook pages. The obnoxious clicking of keys as I begin then delete and begin then delete…it’s like banging my head against a brick wall. The wall stacks up, brick by brick building on my frustration. The words clang like broken machinery.

Characters fall flat. Settings disappear into fog. Plots run in circles. The clinking and clanking of unoiled words screeches louder.

I rifle through articles and pull out creative prompts trying to dredge up something salvageable. But there is no cure more effective than time. Time to fall in love again. Time to wrap up in the loving arms of a story idea. Time to drink in the character’s words. Time to seduce the reader. Time to create a love that lasts far beyond the last page. A love that lasts past the end of the parchment. A love as eternal as the printed words.

Sanitized Testing

The classroom isn’t as full as it used to be. Sure, I haven’t been in a full classroom since Kindergarten, but today there’s three less people than yesterday. Three is a significant number when there’s only seven people. On the first day of senior year there was eleven of us. Now there’s only four and it’s only October. Once the cold settles in we are really in trouble.

Mrs. Sandfield picks up the attendance sheet. She knows all of us by name, but she still insists on treating us like a “normal class” or what was normal before the outbreak. “Gardner?”

Silence. Mrs. Sandfield chews her bottom lip. Her eyes glance up to Troy Dodson’s empty seat. She crosses his name off and just like that, the last trace of him is gone. “Peters?”

Silence. Mrs. Sandfield scratches her pen. “Vance?”

More silence sucking the air out of the room. It doesn’t help that the air conditioner has been broken for months. Mrs. Sandfield marks through Katie Vance’s name. “Weber?”

“Here,” my voice booms obnoxiously loud in the quiet room. Marie Gardner flinches and turns her stink eye on me. You’d think I was yelling at a funeral. She’s a drama queen.

Mrs. Sandfield sets down the list and automatically pulls her sterile smelling hand sanitizer out of her desk drawer. She used to have the fruity kind that girls would shove under their noses when the sweaty soccer team walked by, but the fruity sanitizer is long gone and so is the soccer team.

“Alright, today we are learning the quadratic equation…” Mrs. Sandfield picks up a bright red dry erase marker and starts writing numbers on the board. The internet and phone lines crashed down a few years ago, but the electricity is still running…for now.

As Mrs. Sandfield rambles through notes I count the dry erase markers resting on the board. There’s six of them. I wonder what will happen when they dry out. Maybe Mrs. Sandfield will drag an old chalkboard in if she can find chalk. Maybe by then there won’t be anyone around to teach.

Mrs. Sandfield drags through math, history, and grammar before finally letting us eat lunch. We have to bring our lunch since there’s no one around to cook it. We eat right at our desks since there are only four classes in the entire school. I’m not sure why we don’t just combine into one class, but I guess that’s how the plague spread in the first place. I tried to tell my mom that going to school would get me sick, but she wouldn’t have any of that. Even though half of America is infected, education is still clearly more important.

As I popped jell capsules of fruity artificial flavoring into my mouth I nearly choke. Five little black spots dot my palm. My heart rate spikes as I clench my hands into a fist. I rub my eyes and look again. The dots glare defiantly up at me. “Can I borrow some hand sanitizer?” I blurt.

Mrs. Sandfield narrows her eyes and holds out her bottle. With a closed fist I stand up and take a step towards her. The world lurches under my feet. I barely feel the cool tile as I hit the ground. I see two Maries swinging out of her desk and jumping over me. Black dots dance in my eyes. “Help,” I croak even though I know they won’t help me. They can’t help me or they’ll get sick. They won’t ever use this room again. It’s contaminated.

The door slams shut behind them. The lock clicks. I can almost see the yellow police tape as the black dots blot out the world.

Asylum: The Knocker

I hear the knocking. Holding my breath I glare into the intense darkness straining my ears for the most minuscule sound. There it is! It’s getting louder, the rapping of knuckles against wood. It’s impatient. Someone should really get the door, but I cannot. Paralyzed I lay in wait. The doors unlocked. Maybe whoever it is will figure it out and just come in.

Rap, tap, tap. Again and again and again. The sound beats on my brain pounding like that clanking old type writer that, that poet hammers on upstairs when decent people are sleeping.

Rap, tap, tap. It’s worse than the old woman two floors down who hacked through Beethoven’s symphonies on piano, worse than the young man two doors down who sung opera painfully out of tune in the wrong key.

Rap, tap, tap. I wish I could swing myself out of bed, but if I try they will come back in with the big needle and I’ll spin back into endless nightmares. The big needle doesn’t stop the nightmares. They think it does, but they’re wrong. They pretend not to hear me scream after they use it. Who cares if it doesn’t work as long as I’m not awake to cause trouble. They don’t care.

Rap, tap, tap. Rap, tap, tap. The noise crescendos. I’m surprised they don’t hear it. Shouldn’t they hear it? Shouldn’t they stop it?

Rap, tap, tap. Rap, tap, tap. “Stop it! Stooooop!”

The doors bang open. I struggle to sit up. I have to get my hands free. Why won’t they take this stupid jacket off? How am I supposed to do anything with this stupid jacket on? Rap, tap, tap “Shhhh! It’s alright. Just lay back down.” It’s one of them. The voice bites through the air. I can smell the bloody mouth. I can see the bulge of the needle concealed beneath the lab coat.

Rap, tap, tap. Rap, tap, tap. “Please, please. I’ll go back to bed. I just can’t take the tapping. Please stop the tapping.” I can’t free my hands. I need to free my hands.

Rap, tap, tap. Rap, tap, tap. The doctor pulls the big needle from his coat. “No, please! I will sleep! Just stop the tapping!”

Rap, tap, tap. Rap, tap, tap. Faster and faster. I wriggle as the needle pinches my neck. “Shhhhh! Just go to sleep. It’s alright. There ain’t no tapping. You’ll be fine.”

Rap, tap, tap. Rap, tap. Rap, tap. The darkness smothers me. I struggle to fight it. I just have to get my hands free.

Creak. The doctor’s mumbling drifts back to me. “Good thing it was only Fred this time. Poor guy always hears things. He doesn’t know he’s got four other people rattling round his brain.”

The darkness swallows me and I see her standing over me, the knocker. Her yellow eyes glow through the blackness. “Took you long enough. Out! It’s my turn.”