Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Verily We eXcuse Your Zeal

Well, the A to Z blog challenge is drawing to a close.  And I had lots of fun.  Sad to say, I must admit defeat at this juncture.  I don’t have it in me to manage 5 entries by midnight.  But I don’t consider it a defeat really.  I had a ton of fun and wrote a lot more than I probably would have otherwise.  I managed solid entries from A to U.  If this is a haphazard finale, my apologies.

I’ve had the opportunity to read some wonderful blogs.  

I've had the opportunity to write.
I have no regrets.

Hope to see you all again (virtually speaking, of course).  

Author’s Note:  I know the title doesn’t really make sense.  But it’s the only sentence I could manage with the letters.  Lol!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

U is for Ugly

“We are what we choose to be.”  My mother’s voice is fierce, proud.  She is smearing white paint on her cheeks.  Her hair is slicked back into a tiny knot.  She is wearing only a pair of bloomers and her bra.  I can see the white scales of her costume glimmering on the rack behind her. 

Soon, she will not be my mother.

                I inch just a little closer to her, huddling against the wooden legs of her chair.  She smiles down at me as she finishes her make-up, glitter on white, a faint blue tint to her lips.  I see the beginnings of the dragon. 

                “Bring me my skin,” she tells me and I scramble to my feet, eager to comply.

                The scales of her costume are cold against my fingers, the chinking links pinching my skin.  I wonder if it pinches when she wears it.

                “It does,” she tells me as she takes the costume from me.  She laughs at my surprise but stretches out her arm to show me the faint red pock-marks where the scales bit and pinched at her.  She kisses me on the forehead with her blue lips, still laughing at me.  “It doesn’t hurt much.”

                “Then why?” I ask, watching as she steps into the costume, the scales slinking and shushing where they are puddle at her feet.  I watch as she pulls it up, the snake returning to its skin, the dragon.

                She gestures to me and I race to fasten the snaps and catches along her back, buckling the costume tightly around her waist, her neck.  Only her face with its white paint is visible, foreign beneath the glitter, the blue tinted lips.  “Because I am the dragon,” she tells me.

                I feel my nose burn, my chin tremble.  I am going to cry.

                “No!” my mother tells me.  “No tears.  You are a dragon.”

                “I am ugly,” I tell her.  I feel my face twist, my lips, that deadened space where scarred flesh had flattened cheek-bone, caved in the left side of my nose. 

                My mother’s lips are a thin blue line.  “You are what you choose to be.”

                “I am ugly!” I tell her.

                She stares at me, her face glimmering in the dim light of the back-room, her skin the glittering white of a snow dragon, her spreading smile a toothsome grin.  “Then be ugly.”

                My heart pounds.  I can feel it in my chest, pushing outward.  My face burns in the space around the scar.  The tears on my face spit and hiss and are gone. 

                My mother takes my hand, wincing a little at the heat of it, the dig of my fingernails into her flesh.  “Front row,” she tells me.  “Left hand side.  There’s an awful little boy that throws stones.” 

                I follow her toward the curtain, watch her gleaming white shape vanish into the dimming lights of the theater.  I look to the left.  There’s a little boy, younger than myself, freckled.  His hands are in his pockets.  I slip out from behind the curtain, slink down the steps toward him in the dark.  He won’t be throwing stones after tonight. 

                He screams when he sees me. 

I laugh.

                I am ugly.

                I am a dragon.

                Because I choose to be.

Author's Note:  Still plugging away with U.  Another bit of fiction.  I'm really having fun with these short snapshots.  Who knew?

T is for Troll

                The troll lived in the sandy pits just beyond the southern-most tip of the estuary, amongst the rocks that bracketed that edge of sea and cradled its turn toward the river.  Trina chose her steps carefully, bracing hip against rock and picking her footing amongst the sturdiest sections of salt-wet sand.  Nonetheless, the sand seemed to pull at her bare feet and the rocks seemed more obstacle than support, the once refreshing breezes plucking at her hair with gnarled fingers.  

                By the time she reached the shallow shelter of the troll’s cave, she was breathing heavily, her lungs a hollow inside of her, voiceless as any of the sea sprites that nightly wandered here.

                She tried to call out but her chest ached and her legs shook beneath her and she found herself flopping artlessly against one of the larger rocks, pressing her own chilled hands against her cheeks and the numb tingle that had once been her nose.

                She was weeping when her sister found her, shaking breaths that rattled through her, an aching moisture on her cheeks, clogging her throat.

                “Trina,” the troll said, lumbering with disjointed grace over rather than around the rocks.  It pulled a line of fish from its back and let it fall to the sand at its feet.  “You shouldn’t have come.”

                “It’s my turn,” Trina gasped, swiping harshly at her cheeks, her eyes fixed resolutely on her sister’s face, its reddened lump of nose, the boil on her chin.  “We agreed.”

                The troll smiled, yellowed teeth protruding between its lips in jagged stumps. 
“Your turn?” it asked, the question rumbling from its stomach in burbles of gas and fog.  It shook its head.  “Go home, child.”

                Trina stood, planting her feet in the sand and crossing her arms in front of her.  “I won’t!”

                They stared at each other, a silent assessment.  Trina could feel the creature’s eyes tracking up and down her body, over the willowed silhouette her mother had laced her into, the curls so carefully crafted with clips and now brought to ruin by the wind, the red-root stain on her lips.  

                And then the troll laughed.  “Go home, little girl.  This curse is mine and the salt air and the sea that comes with it.”  It lumbered over to stand in front of Trina.  “You want I should wear your skin?  Let our mother bathe me, perfume me, barter me for an extra litter of pigs or a pair of goats?”

                Trina gasped, feeling her legs soften beneath her, her guts once again clench inside her.  “Please, Tory!  I can’t!  I can’t marry him!”

                The troll shook its head, gathered up its line of fish from the sand where it had fallen.  The smile faded from its face as its eyes shifted over the sanded rock of its front step.  “There are many things I thought I couldn’t do.”  It shrugged, rounded shoulders brushing up against its drooping ears.  “I was always wrong.”

                Trina watched the troll go, each lumbering stride moving it nearer the cave and then inside.  And soon Trina was alone with the sand and the rocks and the realization she would have to go home.

Author's Note:  Another bit of flash fiction and another foray into the fantastical world of imagination.  Still behind and, no matter how impossible it seems, still somehow thinking I might catch up?  How crazy is that?  Yay for the A to Z challenge.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

S is for Sleeping Beauty

She was beautiful, a carefully drawn caricature of an ideal Shane had never dared to put to paper, hair tumbling in silken sheets of silvered gold, lips lilting in the unthinking pink smiles of unblemished youth, eyes shimmering echoes of river-run blue.  He reached out, unthinking, brushing his fingers against the feather-soft round of her cheek, wincing as she blinked at him, the baby-doll response he’d gotten from so many others.  He looked over at his companion.  “Another sleeper.”

The old knight sighed and shifted his stance.  “Best end her.”

Shane sighed, letting his fingers linger on that perfect cheek for a moment, shift to touch that silk-soft hair.  “Such a shame, really.  She can’t be more than six and ten?  Seven and ten?”

The old knight eyed the girl carefully.  “The sleepers don’t wear age as we do.  Twice-ten, I’d say.”  He leaned in a little closer, scanning the plain-weave shift the sisters had dressed her in, sniffing at the perfumed hair.  “Well cared for.  Better than the rest.  Royal blood?”

Shane sighed, pulling his hand back, reaching down to loosen the sword from its scabbard.  “And True Love’s Kiss,” he murmured, rubbing his thumb along the etched name of his sword.

She blinked at him as she died, blood on her lips, a singular glint of awareness bursting into her gaze before her eyes glazed over and eased shut, asleep at last.

Author's Note:  Another flash fiction bit I think.  I've always loved the story of Sleeping Beauty.  Classic tale or Disney, I've always loved it.  As a child, I tortured my parents with what I understand to be endless viewings of the Disney movie.  I still love it.  (The dress should totally have been blue...much more flattering than the pink...Merryweather rules!)   Anyway, I couldn't resist putting my own spin on fairytale for the A to Z blog challengeHope you enjoy.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

R is for Rourke

The long hall leading to the Royal Suites was filled to capacity, dozens of bejeweled old women and equally frilled old men.  The smell of sweat and perfume had combined to a heady heat and Rourke could feel his own simple tunic sticking to his skin as he struggled to keep the High Lord Herschal Van Witten upright and relatively quiet.  As it was, the old man had started muttering again, spittle shining on his lips and his rheumy eyes wandering.  “I’m tired,” he whined.  “Take me home, Rourke.  I want to go home.”

Rourke grimaced, all too aware of the increased glances his very presence was garnering and the stares that grew of them when they realized Lord Van Witten’s declining condition.  “The Lady Queen has invited you to banquet, my lord,” he reminded and then, knowing too well his lord’s next question, went on.  “She has commanded her lords attend, sir.”

Van Witten’s lips flexed fretfully, as if he were uncertain whether he wanted to smile or frown.  “She asked for me?” he asked.

“Specifically,” Rourke lied, all too aware this banquet was just a formality, one that the elders among the royal court clung to and one the new Queen gave only passing courtesy.  It was, however, a tradition that had once meant something to Lord Van Witten.  “We mustn’t disappoint.”

Van Witten coughed and Rourke tightened his grip as the old man stumbled on nothing, his shaking worsening by the moment.  “I’m tired."

“We must make greeting,” Rourke protested, already calculating how long they would have to stay before he could discreetly remove his master from the hall, from the castle back to his estate and his sick-bed, resume his own vigil beside it.  “A greeting my lord, a bit of red-root soup, and I’ll have you home again.”

“I don’t like red-root soup,” Van Witten complained.  “It’s too rich, too red-rootish.”

“It’s made of red-root, my lord,” Rourke allowed, urging Herschal forward as the line in front of them moved.  “You liked it well enough when Raina made it.”

Lord Van Witten pulled against Rourke’s hold.  “I lied,” he groused.  “Never did like those rich…”  The old man paused, looking around himself suddenly as if only just now aware where he was, as if only now recognizing those around him.  “Rich,” he muttered.  “Look at them, boy, all these rich and wasted fools…dressed in silk and eating roast goose.”  He shook his head, free hand reaching up to tug at his own silken shirt.  “Never give a thought to the poor, to the poor sods like you working all day for the leavings.  I should…I should…”

They really were getting stares now.  Rourke ducked his head a little.  “Shush.”

“Don’t shush me!” The old man snapped, voice cracking as if it like the man were fragile, breaking.  “The Lady Queen, forever rest her, named me her truth-sayer!  I’ll not be quiet!”

Rourke bit his lip but said nothing more as the crowd around them shifted, pulled back.  

“She said…”  Van Witten said, coughing and spitting as he did.  “She said I should bear no man to…no man to…”  He stopped, looking around himself, brows hunched low on his face.  “A thousand curses…or cranes…or…”  He paused, his eyes dimming with his voice.  “Where are we, my boy?” 

Rourke swallowed but had nothing to say, his tongue arrested by the sight before him.

Van Witten kept talking though, his trembling increasing as he did.  “I’m tired.  I want to go…want to go…a thousand thousand cranes...a thousand curses…”

“A thousand cursed cranes to peck the eyes of him who will not see truth,” a soft voice finished.

Rourke fought the urge to drop to his knees as the Queen stepped forward, skin shimmering in gold paint and gown glimmering in the soft light of the great hall.  Golden baubles dangled from her ears and hung loose around her neck.  Rourke stiffened his stance but bowed his head, fingers clamped hard on the old man’s elbow.

The Queen pressed gentle fingers to his forehead in acknowledgment.  “A thousand cursed cranes to peck the eyes of him who will not see, a thousand deaths for him who will not hear it.  My dear Lord Van Witten,” she murmured.  “My mother would be pleased to be so well remembered.”

Van Witten’s eyes narrowed to a fierce squint.  “And you are?”

Rourke felt his eyes widen in alarm.  He squeezed at his master’s elbow.  “My Lady Queen,” he stammered.  “My Lord is unwell.  His mind…”

The young Queen looked at Rourke, her eyes a mild and steady gray, her sharp chin wagging a little in thought.  She turned back to Lord Van Witten after only a moment.  “My Lord, you are tired and should rest.”

“I am here at the Lady Queen’s request!” the old man sputtered.  “We must…must make greeting!  Eat red-root soup!”  He paused and Rourke could hear the effort in his speech.  “I’ve some truths left to share.”
Rourke glanced up at the rustle and shush around them, the looks of alarm from the other noblemen.  “My Lord, we are here to share supper…”

The Queen’s voice firmed.  “And truth.  Always the truth, my mother said.”  She set one golden hand against Lord Van Witten’s cheek.  “But you are tired and dislike red-root soup.  Nor is my hall large enough to house the thousand cursed cranes that will surely descend on us all should you enter.”

“My Lady Queen,” Lord Van Witten murmured, awed as he realized her identity.  “There are things you must know.”

The Queen smiled, a thin-lipped press of her lips that betrayed neither warmth nor anger.  She looked at Rourke.  “Your master has many stories, I am sure.  Take him home.  And take care he should not unduly tire himself in their telling.”

Author's Note:  I'm still trying to catch up...and falling further behind.  But writing what comes out.  I meant this for a little short story but it seems more an excerpt of something larger.  Rourke may have a larger adventure.  This challenge is such thoughts, new adventures, new characters.  Huh.  Check out the A to Z blog challenge