Playing in the Spotlight

It’s the liquid courage,

weapon of choice: rum.

It’s the music,

the way the notes hit

and connect everyone in that moment of ecstasy.

It’s the intimate side eye and smile,

the perfect joke,

the rest of the room fading away.

It’s the attention,

knowing that you’re attractive and interesting,

confidence pulsing through your veins,

replacing your blood.

The feeling pushes you forward, driving you to run and dance and act,

but it can’t last.

 

Excitement fades.

Parties end.

Confidence wavers.

And reality waits.

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Like the poem? Leave a comment and read on: http://www.wedbushwrite.com/going-out/

Undeceased Uncle Part 3

All Castor remembered of life was a rope scratching his neck and his sister’s voice in his ear, “I’ll bring you home again.” The promise stuck with him long after the ground fell away and the cold rushed to meet him and his own name became foreign. When he woke, he couldn’t remember who had said it or if it was real. So many things he saw weren’t real. The space around him looked familiar, but parts of the world would fade in and out of focus. Sometimes shadows would drift past. They were shapeless and if they spoke, their voices sounded distorted like speaking underwater. Castor wanted to engage with them, but if he approached, they would disappear. He couldn’t remember much, but when he was alive, real things didn’t disappear. I.e. the shadows weren’t real.

Though Castor didn’t have a clear body anymore, he could only see so much space at one time. He was connected to everything and nothing, and he was limited. He could travel to different locations but not instantly. Being dead was exponentially boring, so he traveled often. He tried to find other beings like him to no avail.

But he had recently heard a familiar voice calling to him. He couldn’t place how he knew her, but her voice cut more clearly through the veil than any other. Most of her words were mumbled. He caught “soon,” “flame…extinguish,” and “will be home.” This woman had made the promise. Castor couldn’t recall anything about her or his home, but that didn’t matter much. Anywhere would be better than the place he was.

 ***

Dead people don’t sleep, but paying attention for all of eternity grows old. To fill the void, Castor stops focusing. He lets himself settle in one spot and then looks past everything he sees until he’s no longer looking. This is exactly what Castor was doing when the moon goddess approached him. She appeared in the form of a shimmering silver orb. “Do you want to live again?” she asked him.

It took him a minute to register her words. “I’m sorry?” He doubted that she had that power.

“Do you want to return home?”

“If it were possible.” Saying yes felt like a trap.

“It is possible.” The orb burned brighter from pale blue to hot white.

“What do I have to do?”

“Nothing.”

“What does it cost?”

“Your sister’s, your relatives’, and your ancestors’ undying devotion to me.”

Castor didn’t understand. “How can I make them worship you?”

“You can’t, but you can give me permission to make them worship me.” The orb floated closer. “I’m a loving goddess. I don’t hurt my supporters. You have my word.”

“Why doesn’t everyone come back from the dead if it’s that easy?”

“Your sister has already made a sacrifice to me in your name. Not everyone will do what it takes.”

Castor considered. Did he have a sister? Why was she trying to reverse death? Necromancy is known to be the darkest of black magic.

“I don’t have much time, and I need your permission, your half of the deal. Don’t let your sister have suffered in vain.”

Castor wanted to refuse, but refusing a goddess is ill advised. It was already too late. His sister had started the mess. He couldn’t back out. “My sister, relatives, and ancestors will worship you above all other gods and goddess until their dying day.”

“No, I want their loyalty forever, even in death,” the orb snapped.

“They will worship you forever.”

It happened quickly. Castor was formless watching the orb rise into the air, and then an uncomfortable feeling of compression came over him. His being was being compounded into a shape again. The invisible force shoved him deep into the ground, pried open his coffin, and jolted him back into his body. Cold flesh trapped him. He tried to stretch in his skin, but everything was stiff and the dirt weighed down on the coffin lid. What good was coming back from the dead if he had to claw back to the surface?

Then the dirt rolled off the coffin as if made of water. The weight of the ground disappeared, and Castor pushed the lid open. The light from the moon shone too bright for Castor. He squinted up at the world of the living and suddenly it felt safer to be dead. What if his murderers returned? What if they killed him again? What if they tried to kill him again but he couldn’t die? People say nothing is worse than death, but these people don’t know torture.

Castor buried his fear, stepped out of the coffin, and rejoined the world. Memories from his life swirled in his brain, but the loudest one was the whisper from the woman, his sister. Her promise glowed in the graveyard and pushed him forward. If asked where his house was, he wouldn’t be able to answer, but his feet that night led him home.

Aurora had left the front door unlocked. He crossed the threshold, and the candle in the front room flickered out. “Aurora?” he called, moving from room to room. Her footsteps thundered down the steps and her arms were around him before he could turn to face her.

She shivered at his cool touch, but she didn’t let go. “You’re late. Ms. Freterer promised you’d be home before moonrise.”

“Ms. Freterer?” The name felt odd in his mouth.

“She owns the potions shop, don’t you remember?” Aurora stepped back to examine him. Her eyes lingered on the rope burn around his neck. “You still look dead.”

“I only remember certain things right now. I’d be surprised if I didn’t look like a corpse, my heart isn’t actually beating.”

“We can clean you up; it doesn’t matter as long as you’re home.” She tried to pull him towards his bedroom, but he wouldn’t move.

“Rora, what sacrifice did you have to make to the moon goddess?”

Aurora frowned. “Nothing. I just bought a potion, poured it out, and lit a candle.”

“That’s all? You swear?”

“Yes. What happened to you?”

“It’s nothing. Dying just makes you paranoid. On the other side, it was impossible to know what was real.”

“Well, this is real.” Aurora smiled and she showed him into his bedroom.

***

Aurora didn’t sleep that night. Instead she sat by her bedroom window and prayed to the moon goddess, thanking her for bringing Castor back. She prayed for Ms. Freterer and for Castor’s health. She lost hours just talking to the moon goddess, a one-sided conversation that always came back to Castor. Aurora had always been weary of necromancy, but this wasn’t scary. This wasn’t dark and evil and wrong. This was love.

To be continued…

*****

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Miss parts one and two? Find them here: http://www.wedbushwrite.com/undeceased-uncle-part-one/

http://www.wedbushwrite.com/undeceased-uncle-part-two/

February 2019 Writing Update

February has officially ended which means it’s time for a writing update! I’ll start by saying that I will probably continue last months trend of writing multi-part short stories. I think that publishing short snippets allows me to flesh out a better story without writing an excessive amount per post. Also, I’m going to be starting a campaign on social media promoting creativity by sharing tips for staying creative throughout the week. Sometimes the week days can be monotonous and kill any motivation for writing or creating new things. I’m hoping that by sharing some tricks that I use to focus and keep myself motivated, I can help others.

This past month I have brain stormed and started pre-writing my new novel idea. Though I don’t have a title to share yet, I can say that the story involves magic, royalty, and five long-lost sisters. My goal for March is to write at least half of the first draft. I will actually be starting the draft later this week, provided Writer’s Block stays away. What are your writing goals for this month?

Stay tuned for more short stories, poems, and updates about my current work-in-progress!

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Ready to read? Check out last Tuesday’s poem: http://www.wedbushwrite.com/readjusting/

Readjusting

Not for the first time, a single, brown hair drifts into the hinge of her glasses.

The two plastic ends meet.

Clinging together, they strangle the hair.

It snaps off.

The girl pushes her glasses up her nose,

readjusting.

 

In the shower, water splatters the white tiles

as she washes her hair.

The shampoo scrubs away the dirt and more.

Long dark strands of hair tangle around her fingers.

They streak down the tile like thick rivers,

too thick, too much hair.

 

Her eyes drift over the mirror

not looking long,

not seeing the scalp peaking through.

But as she turns the corner, she sees the wall through her hair,

blue paint.

A soothing blue

that amplifies the calm buzz of the razor.

Buzz buzz, like a lazy fly on a hot summer day.

 

“Are you sick?”

No. She’s healthy.

It happens.

***

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Undeceased Uncle Part Two

Aurora walked straight from Freterers to the graveyard where her brother had been laid to rest last weekend. No one stopped her, but Aurora was certain she couldn’t return to the potion shop again without running into trouble. Oh well. She had what she needed.

Her brother’s marble grave, encircled by graves of their ancestors, shone in the afternoon sun. As she stepped closer, she felt his loneliness emanating up through the soil. She ran her hand over the smooth curve of the headstone. “Soon, Castor.”

Aurora read the instructions aloud to him, “On the full moon after your loved one’s death, pour half of this potion into the dirt above the body. Pour the rest into a silver offering bowl for the moon goddess. Do not wait for your loved one to rise. Return home and light a white candle in the front window. When your loved one returns, the flame will extinguish and they will be home.”

She turned the bottle around to make certain she’d read everything. “Seems simple.”

A breeze blew her hair back behind her shoulders. “Patience. We still have a few days to prepare. Then you can come home.”

***

On the night of the full moon, everything was set. Aurora had made up the guest bedroom in her small cottage, laid out his clothes, and set the candle. Castor would know where to find her. He used to visit often.

Vibrating with excitement, Aurora put on the dress she had worn to Castor’s funeral. It only seemed right, especially since he’d be in his death suit. This time though, she transfigured her hat into a wig of raven black waves. If he saw her without hair, he’d make fun of her as soon as he walked in the front door. She was still sore over the insults she’d received at Freterers. She couldn’t handle much more.

With potion in hand, Aurora lifted her long, black lace dress off the ground and made the one-person procession to her brother. She made it to the headstone just as the moon peaked overhead. The round orb cast a silver glow over the graveyard, eerie and beautiful.

Aurora placed the offering dish beside the grave. When she unstopped the potion a whiff of rotten flowers floated up. She poured part of the liquid in a pentagram over the dirt packed over her brother’s body. Then she filled the offering dish. Clutching the empty bottle, she gazed up at the moon. “Please bring my brother back. He doesn’t deserve this. He’s trapped between worlds. Please, bring him home.”

Following the potion instructions, Aurora didn’t wait.

***

Sunlight woke Aurora. She had fallen asleep on the couch by the front door, expecting to see her brother before the night’s end. But the candle in the window still burned. White wax had dripped onto the sill and the wooden floor. She went to the guest bedroom. Nothing had been touched. She checked every room in the house, but she was alone. Afraid to blow out the candle, she left it burning as she returned to the graveyard.

The offering had tipped over some time in the night. The pentagram had seeped into the soil. The dirt remained smooth and undisturbed.

Against her better judgement, Aurora went to see Ms. Freterer. The old woman was seated in the back office in a dirty arm chair surrounded by potion crates. She seemed unsurprised when Aurora burst in. “Didn’t work, did it?”

 “You’re a fraud. You’re selling bottle of empty promises.”

“I’m selling real products. I give away nothing.” Ms. Freterer’s smile revealed black teeth.

“So it didn’t work because I took it?” Aurora’s indignation faded quickly.

“If you were to buy the product, I’m sure it would deliver.”

Aurora pulled a handful of bank notes out of her pocket.

“Because you stole it the first time, the price is double.”

Aurora gave Ms. Freterer the whole wad of cash. “Will I have to repeat the ritual?”

Ms. Freterer considered. “Usually yes, but because I like you, no. I’ll ensure that the moon goddess finds and accepts your offering. Castor will return to the land of the living by nightfall. You have my word.”

Her word didn’t mean much to Aurora.

To be continued…

*****

 Like part two? Share it and read on: http://www.wedbushwrite.com/beautiful-mask/

Miss part one? Find it here: http://www.wedbushwrite.com/undeceased-uncle-part-one/

The Lies We Tell Ourselves

time

Do you hear the ticking?

Count the seconds,

the minute,

the days,

the years.

Wish them away.

Push it off to tomorrow.

Rain check, reschedule.

Plan like you have time.

Promise forever to him. All the time you have and beyond.

 

Grey snakes through your hair.

Lines mark your skin.

The aching starts.

 

Memories slip away.

Where did you put them?

 

The stress,

bad decisions,

sadness

all become apparent in your body.

 

“Time heals all wounds”

No.

The wounds become scars;

the pain dulls.

They mark you always.

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Like this poem? Share it and read on: http://www.wedbushwrite.com/new-time-same-place/

Undeceased Uncle: Part One

Freterers was known for its controversial potions. Ms. Vera Freterer had no qualms about selling virgin’s blood, baby’s teeth, and witch warts. While witch warts are used in common potions, usually to cure a cold, they are rarely sold as a separate commodity. Not only did Ms. Freterer’s store contain less-than-agreeable ingredients, she had also crafted potions unique to her store. One floor to ceiling shelf held all of her Freterer exclusives where you could find tasteless, clear droplets used to give someone bad breath or a rainbow potion that could change your sexuality. This latter potion wasn’t necessarily intended to make anyone straight, it was only meant to change your attractions to fall anywhere you wanted on the spectrum. In her newspaper ad, Ms. Freterer tried to argue that the potion was made to turn sexuality into a choice in order to empower people. Protesters nearly burnt down her store that year.

Regardless of the bad press, everyone always stopped in Freterers when in town. It was like watching a tornado; you should run, but you want to see what happens next. That’s how Aurora found herself in Freterers the week after she lost all of her hair. She’d been practicing fire spells in university with a friend when her hair caught. Her professors had burn cream for her skin, which immediately healed. But hair isn’t a vital organ and losing it isn’t like losing a hand. Most people just assume that it will grow back. Aurora’s hadn’t re-sprouted.

Ms. Freterer’s shop apprentice, Larry, was pouring a chunky grey potion into a jar when Aurora joined the crowd of eager customers. Larry had seen Aurora before a few months ago. He only remembered her because of her grey and gold eyes and her boobs. With her shiny head, he almost didn’t recognize her. “Hair potions are aisle three,” he offered.

Aurora turned on him. “Excuse me?”

He held up three fingers. “Aisle three.”

“I’m just looking around.” She had initially intended to buy a hair regrowth potion, but she wouldn’t be shamed into buying one. Besides, she looked just fine without hair, and being bald meant a faster shower and no need for shampoo.

Larry’s jaw hung open slightly. “You sure you don’t need help?”

“Yes.” Aurora weaved through the crowd and away to the shelf of Freterer-only products. Most of the people were congregated here. Kids stood in the front and adults read over their heads. Luckily Ms. Freterer knew this and put the kid-friendly potions towards the bottom. Every prank bottle was at kid-height; every potion labeled “desire” sat on the top shelves.

Aurora only wanted the new arrivals, which were displayed prominently on their own table in the back corner of the store. She inched her way to the front and saw the five most objectively awful potions Freterer’s had ever carried. They were part of a new special collection labeled: Philia de Corpse. Beneath the title the sign taped to the table read: Do you love your deceased family members? Do you wish you could adopt a nonliving human? Do you think it’s unfair that the dead are caged and hidden like prisoners? Well these potions can help you do something about it! We have Midnight Kisses for raising your deceased partner for an evening, New Necro Parent for raising a reborn dead child, Undeceased Uncle for raising dead family members long-term, Free from the Coffin for raising someone from death forever, and Say No to Eternal Rest to keep your undead from continuing to decay. 

Everyone around Aurora shifted away uncomfortably, but she picked up one of the bottles and read the back. “Dragon scales, newborn blood, and graveyard dirt? There has to be an ingredient or ten missing,” she muttered to herself. 

“Sharp eye.” 

Aurora looked up to find Ms. Freterer herself carrying a fresh box of potions up from the back. Upon first glance Ms. Freterer looked like the most average human person in existence. She had mousy brown hair that she twisted up to keep out of her brown, normal eyes. She wasn’t overweight, but she wasn’t thin. Two shallow laugh lines dug into her cheeks and a few squiggly lines spanned across her forehead. She would have seemed boring and middle aged to strangers, but the magical community knew that she was three hundred and six years old. Unfortunately, she hadn’t picked up potion making until her thirties so her body had already seen some wear when she found a potion that would keep her body from aging. 

Ms. Freterer lifted the box onto the table with the new collection and rubbed her wrists. “I never could hold heavy objects for long periods of time.” Her eyes flickered from Aurora to the box. 

“Do you always leave ingredients off the labels?” Aurora asked.

Ms. Freterer narrowed her eyes. “It’s common practice, otherwise anyone here could make my potions for themselves. The labels give you a general idea in case of allergies.” 

“I’m awful at making potions on my own. What’s actually in this one?” Aurora held out the dark, ovular bottle of Undeceased Uncle. 

Ms. Freterer snorted. “Looking to raise your family pet?” 

“My brother.” Aurora enjoyed the way Ms. Freterer’s face fell. 

Ms. Freterer took the bottle and placed it back on the display table. “Better not to mess with this.”

“It’s bad practice to discourage your customers from buying your new products.” Aurora snatched the bottle back. 

“I’m trying to do you a favor,” Ms. Freterer sounded genuine.  

“Why?”

Ms. Freterer hesitated and then picked up her box again. “Because a girl who shaves her head clearly doesn’t have guidance.”

Aurora wanted to make a scene. She wanted to reassure the entire store that a woman doesn’t need hair. Instead, she slipped the bottle into her bag and walked out. 

To Be Continued…

January Writing Update

Happy 2019! Time to dust off some old new year’s resolutions and make them the new, new year’s resolution. I’ve already broken my January resolution to stress less, but there’s still time!

January has been a month of change. After graduating college, I moved states and started an editorial coordinator position at a science, peer-reviewed journal. Now that I’ve been in the new place for a month, I’m starting to redevelop my writing routine. One of these changes is that I’m going to be positing new blog content once a week to help me stay focused on my larger writing projects. Thank you for bearing with me as I make this transition!

This past month, as it was the start of a new year and a new chapter in my life, it’s only fitting that I switched gears and started a new writing project. I’m cultivating a fantasy novel idea that I’ve had for awhile now, and I’m excited about it! I’ll release more details in the coming months so stay tuned!

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Ready to read? Check out Tuesday’s poem: http://www.wedbushwrite.com/perfectly-fake/

Perfectly Fake

Fake families play out scripted dramas across your screen.

The over-the-top reactions should be disorienting. The lack of clutter in

all the rooms should pull you out of the story, but you’ve become used to it.

You watch their lives with varying

levels of

interest.

You want to know what happens next.

You want to see the humor. You want to see the painful things happen to someone else.

Maybe it makes it easier.

When you aren’t engrossed in your show (or even when you are)

you scroll social media,

mindlessly following pictures and statuses about other people’s lives.

You want to be happy like them. Go places like them. Take happy, smiling, perfect pictures like them.

And maybe you would, if you did anything interesting.

Instead you resign yourself to watching through your screens.

Because watching is easier.

Because you’re convinced that you don’t have time to do more.

Because you’re tired.

Last Seen

Image via freestocks.org from Pexels

The hardware store assistant led Amy and her new fiance Eric into the materials section of the Decor-A-Home store. “Now do you guys want a bed frame that’s made of wood…”

“Too expensive,” Eric muttered. Their price range was tight, but a turquoise Hermes saddle bag hung from Amy’s arm. Though it could’ve been a birthday gift, the store assistant took it as an invitation to up sell.

“Wood is more sturdy. It lasts generations, and if you get a classic style, then it will never be out of fashion.” The assistant looked to Amy. Amy had a long, pointed chin that didn’t match her squinted eyes or tomato-like nose. She hefted her bag higher on her shoulder and turned to Eric.

His clean-shaven face was round and baby-like. He had slicked back his hair with gel to appear older, but it wasn’t working. Amy placed her slender hand on his forearm. “Maybe we could splurge, just a little. For the children or grandchildren. We could pass the bed frame down for generations.”

“Like your bag?” he asked. 

Amy withdrew her hand and turned to the store assistant. “We’ll see your other material options please.”

“What about wicker? Beach themes are all the rage.” The assistant lead them further through towering stacks of planks and boards and screws. “The wicker can come in any color you want and is more flexible.”

This time Amy gauged Eric’s reaction more closely. What she saw is impossible to say because his face didn’t change.

The assistant pressed on. “We also have metal, a very popular choice right now.”

Eric glanced at the metal poles and checked his watch. He had an appointment soon, one that couldn’t be rescheduled. “Metal works. Now can we pick a style?”

“Actually, first we’ll go through the paint shop and pick a color.” The assistant led them into the next room. It was basically a bright gymnasium overwhelmed with people. Sunlight flooded the room from windows up high. On the two walls and the floor, the room gradually transitioned through every possible shade of one color to shades of the next one until the rainbow (plus black, white, and gray) was completed.

Eric grabbed his forehead as if the colors had given him a migraine. “Amy, you pick. I’ll go on to styles so we can get out of here faster.”

The assistant was supposed to stop him. She was supposed to stay with the guests at all times. But she’d had a rough day. So she’d say the guest was in the bathroom. Sometimes you can’t keep up with everyone.

“I’m going to the blues.” Amy called as she disappeared into the teeming crowd of store assistants and customers.

The assistant bobbed and weaved trying to keep up, but she’d lost sight of Amy. In a store as big as Decor-A-Home, it was easy to lose someone. The assistant took a breath and spun slowly, scanning every inch of the blue area. When she was satisfied that Amy’s pointy chin wasn’t there, the assistant moved on to the next color and the next, systematically. Protocol told her that she should use the intercom to find Amy, but the assistant couldn’t afford another negative mark. Maybe Amy had gone to the bathroom.

The restroom was filled with women but not Amy. The next best option was to find Eric. He would know where his wife had run off to. The assistant did one last sweep before moving onto style.

Eric was standing right where he said he would be. He’d found a beautiful scroll pattern frame. “Will you tell Amy that I want this one in dark brown? I’m sure she’s already picked out an absurd pastel color.”

“Actually, I don’t know where she went. She said she was going to the blue section, but I couldn’t keep up with her.” The assistant tried to keep her face blank and her tone casual. If she panicked, then so would Eric. 

“Amy likes to run off. I’ll check and meet you here.” 

Before the assistant could object, Eric was speed walking back to the paint section. The assistant found contentment in the fact that Eric was all business. Then five minutes passed with no sign of his return. Making sure to stay in sight of the scroll frames, the assistant edged towards the paint shop. 

After ten minutes, she went looking for Eric. Young couples, old ladies, and families with fussy kids all perused the paint section. They got in the way. The assistant pulled aside one of her coworkers and gave a short description of the customers she was looking for. No luck. 

She had to go to the intercom. Keeping her eyes peeled the entire way, the assistant went to the center of the store, lifted the radio for the intercom, and asked Eric and Amy to report to the store center. The assistant dreaded the conversation she’d be having with her boss later. At least she’d be able to get this couple helped and move on. But they didn’t come. After ten minutes, the assistant came over the intercom again urging the couple to meet with her. Maybe they were talking and hadn’t heard. Maybe the intercom system had sounded gravely the first time.

Ten more minutes passed and no one came. The assistant went to the registers. Five were open plus a self-check out section. She gave a detailed description to every attendant. No one had seen Eric or Amy. 

“Are you sure?” the assistant asked the man at self-check out. 

“Yeah. They could’ve decided this store’s too expensive or that they’d come back another time.” He said this doubtfully. Usually people would have the assistant escort them out rather than run away.

Eric didn’t seem like the running away type. 

“And you tried the intercom system?” the worker asked.

“Twice.” 

“Then that’s all you can do. If they come through, I’ll let you know. It’s not like they’re in danger.” 

“Yeah.” The assistant convinced herself that Eric and Amy were capable adults who had probably just left. Then the assistant helped five more customers before the end of the day, luckily avoided a talking to about losing guests, and forgot about the couple.

A week later the missing persons report came out.