Zephyrus of the Anemoi

.the ramblings of a radman.

Category: Writing (page 2 of 4)

Reflections from a booth in a diner on the first day of September

I sit at a table in the diner and watch my family eat.

A booth, actually.

I sit in a booth at the diner and watch my family eat.

My daughter asks for more fries. She uses her hands, signing “more” and then “fries”. She’s very precise when she does it, which I always find funny. I find it funny because she’s only precise when she thinks she’ll be told no. Her movements to sign “fries” makes me smile.

My youngest son very carefully dips his fries into a packet of Welch’s Concord grape jelly. The barest amount of jelly comes off onto the fry and he takes a very small bite before dipping it again.

I think back to a moment minutes before when the food had not yet arrived and my daughter dumped the sweetener packets all over the table. Squealing in delight, she snatched them off the table on large fistfuls… at least, as large as her tiny hands would allow. Each fistful is crammed back into the container until it is full and the process begins anew.

My son stacks the jelly, jam, and marmalade packets until they tip and fall. Across the table, the sweetener packets spill across the table once again. But then the food arrives.

I’m back in the moment again. My daughter has crawled to my side of the booth and into my lap. She immediately wants to move away. She doesn’t want me. She just wants to be close to her brother’s fries. She steals them, no longer signing “more” and “fries”, but just taking that which she wants.

Eventually, they calm. I sit, drink my coffee, and smile at my wife. Out the window I see a hot, summer day and cars rushing to destinations unknown. I wonder if they wish they could sit with their family and enjoy a late breakfast.

I take a sip, and the warmth fills me. But it’s not the coffee that I feel.

The Road Less Traveled: a microfiction horror story

When the car broke down, I was fifty miles past nowhere with another hundred to nothing. The sliver of the moon that remained struggled to peek past the clouds, as I hunched over the engine, hoping to get a glimpse of the problem and keep moving. No one traveled this road after dark.

When the battery died and the lights went out, I settled in for a long walk, careful to keep my feet on the black river of cold pitch. I checked my phone for reception every few minutes until it too turned lifeless in my hands, just another hunk of technology that betrayed me.

The rustling of the brush caused me to nearly leap out of my skin as a bobcat bounded up onto the shoulder and dashed away into the dark, more frightened of me than I of it. I counted to thirty before taking another step, afraid of drawing it back. Ten steps later, I stumbled and fell to my hands and knees. My hands rested in something sticky, but the moon had retreated once again. I stood and wiped my hands on my jeans as the light poked through the shroud above. The lifeless carcass at my feet grinned up at me. It was likely the bobcat, though what was left of it fostered some doubt. My skin began to crawl and I struggled to remain calm. I rubbed the back of my neck, which had grown much warmer.

By the time I felt the hot breath on my neck and hand, it was too late even to scream.

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Severe (June 27, 2013)

Silver forks dance across the horizon, illuminating the blue-grey afternoon sky
Droplets pelt the near-invisible screen before me, blocking the road from view

I slow, fearing I might lose control in a fog so thick they call it rain

Roadsigns slide by
Practically invisible
Completely unreadable

Red eyes stare at me through the thicket
The beasts to which they are attached nothing more than dark shapes lumbering in obscurity

Soon the brambles relent, no longer tearing at the glass barrier separating us
Soft rays clamber through from above

I signal my intent and exit, leaving the dark forest of water behind
Praying that those wanderers still hidden within its depths find their path safely home

Escape

He awoke in a small, dank cell.

Aren’t they all?

He smirked at the thought of being locked up in the lush penthouse, something he knew all too well as a child, when he had been a prisoner in his own home. That had been ages ago. Just before he’d met Iris.

Iris!

The last few hours came flooding back to him. The fight in the lobby, the inhuman creatures doing his lover’s bidding, the way she drugged him and brought him here. Zeph had to assume the last bit, as he’d been unconscious, but it certainly seemed the most plausible scenario. He should have seen this coming, of course. He had broken Iris’s heart too many times through the years. It was only a matter of time before she did the same to him. He wanted to be upset, but realized it was futile. She had done what he had forced her to do.

The only thing to do at this point was to find a way out of here, and if he was very, very lucky, find a way to save Iris. If it wasn’t too late.

Zeph wondered what Notu had offered her. He could only assume he was in one of Notu’s dungeons under Anemoi Tower. Zeph never should have left the family business when Notu began to turn dark. If he had stayed, he might have been able to prevent the devastation of the last several months. But he had more pressing matters at the time.

Like the demon-spawn under Chicago, of course.

There was a scraping at the door and Zeph quickly feigned unconsciousness. The rusty hinges creaked as though the door hadn’t been used in years. It probably hadn’t, as Zeph and his brothers made a pact to seal them off in the ’50s, when their father passed. The gaoler entered slowly, cautiously. He had been warned of Zeph’s heightened constitution. Zeph leapt off the table in a flash, snatching the keys from the gaoler’s waist and slipping through the door. He slammed it shut behind him. The gaoler let out an alien growl. Notu had found this particular lost soul deep underground. It was accustomed to cramped passageways, but it didn’t take kindly to being trapped. It furiously and repeatedly threw itself against the door.

The gaoler’s strength proved great indeed, and the frame on which the door was hung began to shake, despite its sturdy nature. Flakes of rust showered down as the metal rattled. Zeph decided it was probably a good time to leave. He sprinted down the hallway and took a left at the first junction. The cell door came clattering off its hinges behind him and the gaoler roared so loudly that the ground shook beneath Zeph’s feet.

As he rounded the next corner, Zeph came face-to-face with three more of the creatures that attacked him in the lobby.

Good. Payback time.

Zeph threw his left leg out in a half-split and dropped into a low crouch. The Drowling, as he would later learn they were called, were caught off guard by his sudden appearance and hadn’t yet formulated plan of attack. Zeph’s smile grew so large it threatened to eat his face. He was going to enjoy this.

He quickly stood up straight and snapped one leg out at the throat of the closest Drowling. His foot connected hard and the Drowling crumpled to the ground. Down, but not out, the creature immediately began to rise again, gasping for air.

Okay, so they have to breathe, Zeph mused. That’s one way to kill them.

The second and third rushed right at him. Zeph ducked as the second hurled itself forward, shoulder first. Too slow, Zeph collapsed onto his back as the beast careened into him. Rolling through the fall, Zeph threw the Drowling down the hallway as the gaoler rounded the corner at full speed. The crunch of bone and flesh echoed as they collided and his two assailants collapsed into a heap, struggling to disentangle themselves. The first Drowling was back on his feet and breathing much better, though he still wheezed a bit. The third was upon him and Zeph raised his arms to protect his head as the Drowling pummeled him from above.

Enough of this.

Zeph sucked in as much air as he could while being punched in the chest and exhaled as hard as he could. The force of the wind from his mouth hurled one of the Drowling into the air above Zeph. Pinwheeling to his feet, Zeph spun round and hit the creature as it fell. He aimed for the dead center of the chest, hoping to stop the Drowling’s heart, but as he connected, he sensed that the beast had a drastically different cardiovascular system to his own. A psychic flash in his mind revealed the heart was much lower in the abdomen. With the speed of a striking cobra, Zeph brought his other fist up and crushed the creatures heart with force of the blow. It was dead before it hit the ground.

Two ways.

The last standing Drowling turned suddenly and ran away. Zeph, confused, turned to see the gaoler and other Drowling clawing at their eyes as rivulets of blood poured from them. Iris stepped around the corner into view. She raised her hand in warning and Zeph froze.

His pulse quickened and, for a moment, he was happy to see her. One look at her eyes and he could see the hate burning through her. He knew that this was no rescue.

“Why are you doing this?” he asked.

“My love, don’t you know?” mocked Iris. “Hell hath no fury like a witch scorned…”

Flash fiction (with illustrations)

“At the last moment, Sloan pulled hard on the string, narrowly evading the blast from the approaching star cruiser. The kite remained defiantly aloft.”

Commander Joseph Lynch sat silently, waiting.

“You are clear for space walk, Commander. Good luck out there.”

The voice echoed inside Joe’s helmet. He had a very important task ahead, and he tried to focus on it. No matter how hard he tried, his thoughts wandered.

Little Joey Lynch gripped the bat tightly. He watched the pitcher start the wind-up. Here came the throw. Joey brought the bat around as hard as he could. He missed entirely.

“Don’t worry, Joe!” shouted his dad, as Joey ran to get the ball. “Just keep your eye on the ball. Watch it all the way into the bat. You can do it. I believe in you!”

Joey was the smallest kid on his little league team. His birthday had been about a week before the cut-off date for Kindergarten and his parents had sent him, anyway. Being the youngest kid in class had always made sports a bit harder for Joey. He was smart, probably the smartest kid in school. Except for Joanna. She was able to pick things up even faster than Joey. He didn’t mind, though. He thought she was cute.

But, unfortunately, as the years had passed, being smart wasn’t enough to fit in. And so, Joey had decided to join the little league team that summer. Unfortunately, he had never hit a ball in his life.

“Okay, kiddo,” his dad started, “here it comes!”

The pitch sailed toward him and Joey swung with all his might. The bat connected with the ball, but just barely. It deflected the ball behind him, where it missed his mom’s car by a few inches.

“Whoops!” His dad cringed as the ball very nearly landed them both in hot water. “Maybe we should change our angle just a little bit.”

As Joey moved into position, his dad approached him for a little father-son coaching moment.

“Okay, now, Joe,” his dad began. “This is it. This is the one. I can feel it on this pitch. This is your pitch. Can you feel it?”

Joey nodded his head. His dad handed him the ball for a moment. Joey could feel the weight of it in his hand.

“Did I ever tell you what Grandpa used to say about a baseball, Joe?”

Joey shook his head. Dad didn’t talk about Grandpa as much as he thought he did.

“Grandpa said, ‘The act of throwing a baseball is a very important thing. A piece of the pitcher goes with that ball. A bit of his soul. If he loves the game enough, every player that touches that ball leaves a piece of himself behind. A baseball is so much more than a piece of equipment for a game: it’s dirt and earth and sweat and even tears. Every player that plays the game for love is left behind, long after the game is over.”

Joey didn’t quite understand what his dad meant, but he knew it was important. His dad wiped away a tear that had snuck down his face. Joey pretended not to see.

“When I throw this pitch, a piece of me is coming at you. And that piece of me is going to guide that ball right to your bat. And when you hit it this time, a piece of you is going to join me on a journey the likes of which neither of us has ever seen. Now, are you ready?”

Joey nodded, and choked up on the bat. His dad walked back up the alley to the makeshift “mound” he had kicked in the gravel. He pulled back his arm and threw the ball. Joey stepped forward, pulled on the bat as hard as he could and—CRACK! The ball sailed up and over his dad’s head, way down the alley. Joey jumped up and down as his dad rushed to him and held him up in the air.

“I knew you could do it!”

Joey ran to where the ball fell, picked it up, and–

“Sir?”

Commander Joseph Lynch snapped back to his current situation. The voice from inside the ship echoed through his helmet once more.

“Sir, are you okay?”

“I’m fine,” Joe responded. “I’m ready to do this.”

“Very good, sir. You are clear to proceed at any time.”

Joe relaxed, took a deep breath, and pulled a baseball out of one of the pockets on his EV suit. “Standing” as best he could in the vacuum of space, Joe hurled the baseball as hard as possible. It sailed out of sight into the black.

“So long, dad. Enjoy the journey. I know I will.”

The rifle stock pressed firmly against my shoulder. A bead of sweat slid lazily through my right eyebrow. I knew it would be a problem soon, but I shrugged it off. My head tilted awkwardly to one side, as I struggled to peer through the eyepiece of the scope on the rifle. I was no marksman. I wasn’t afraid to admit that.

I slowly exhaled and let the crosshairs fall across the target. Nice and easy, I thought to myself. One more breath.

The bead of sweat dripped from my brow and into my eye. It stung a little, but not as much as missing my mark would. I took a deep breath and held it for a 2-count. I exhaled. My finger shifted ever-so-slightly.

Fwip.

The pellet gun made barely a sound as the round was thrust mightily from the chamber, down the barrel and across the backyard toward the target: an aluminum can propped up on a cardboard box. I listened for the tell-tale metal-on-metal crunch that meant I’d scored a hit. I watched intently for that moment when the can, filled to the brim with water from the old caulk bucket the dog drinks from, exploded in a spray of sparkling light reflected skyward.

Nothing. Missed again.

The chuckle came from behind me, as I lowered the rifle and proceeded to offer it to my dad.

“You missed,” he prodded. “The point is to hit the can, you know.”

“You haven’t hit it yet either,” I retorted, a little more defensively than I expected. He took the rifle from my hands and loaded another pellet. His massive arms primed the rifle for another shot.

“No, but I’m going to hit it before you will.”

Big talk. From both of us. Only minutes earlier, my 7-year old son fired his very first shot and hit the target dead-on. I’d never been more proud in my life, and I abhorred violence.

“Your grandson hit it before you did. First try.”

Dad laughed. There was a mixture of pride and jealousy in his voice as he said, “Little shit.” We both laughed. My dad was funny when he cursed. It was one of his more endearing traits.

He took aim. He didn’t waste time trying to calm himself. He didn’t try any breathing techniques to steady his shot. He just pointed, sighted, and fired.

He missed.

I took the rifle from him and put my pellet into the chamber. I took my shot. I missed.

I shrugged and handed Dad the rifle. “Why don’t you just hit it already, so our pissing match can be over.”

He took the rifle, loaded it, and steadied it in his hands. I looked on in silence as a calm fell across the yard. The hairs on the back of my neck stood on end as his finger tightened.

The can erupted in a brilliant display of color. Sunlight fractured as it passed through hundreds of water droplets. A loud twang resounded across the cornfield, ripe and ready for harvest. The can spun in place, torn nearly in two by the force of the water begging to escape through the newly-formed rupture. It must have taken less than a second, but it felt like ten. The can fell off the back of the cardboard box. Water was already soaking into the corrugated paper, leaving a mark behind. Like bloodstains, reminding any unfortunate passer-by that something horrendous had happened in that very spot.

“Your shot,” he said, as he handed me the rifle. I took it without a word, and grinned.

Okay, I’ve been putting off posting this for a while, because I’m always afraid of non-constructive criticism. But, I am tired of looking at it sitting there, waiting for me to post it. So here you go. This is my nearly-complete, but eternally-unfinished screenplay. I’d love to hear any and all feedback you have on it. Tell me what works, what doesn’t, what’s funny, what’s not, what scenes you think are missing.

Untitled Love Story

Click to open. Option-click on a Mac to download. Right-click and choose “Save As…” in Windows to do the same.

I love the sound of the wind through the leaves
As a summer storm rolls in at the 11th hour
The windows are open and I can feel the breeze pass over my sore shoulders and tired face
I breathe deep, the cool Midwest breeze; Westerly is its name
I am reminded of storms gone by, as I so often am at the end of summer
As the great giant’s footsteps are heard rumbling across the plains
Th pitter-patter of thousands of thousands tumble across my ears
I repress the urgent need to feel the drops kiss my skin, instead turning toward my bed
I lay awake and listen
Listen
If all nights could be this sweet

Beware the wold, the gimble in the wabe. For midnight comes and nocturnal desires thrash in the pitch. Knowledge is deadly, but death is cheap. Cut its purse and flee, for the raven and the mockingbird seek refuge.

 

All is not yet lost… yet you are.

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