Category Archives: Vices

Haight Expectations: #AtoZ Blog Challenge

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A Car In The Woods: Chapter Six

2019 AtoZ Blog Challenge

AtoZ2019HHAIGHT EXPECTATIONS

1967

Dr. Samantha Wander rarely lived up to her last name. She was content to live in the same area she grew up in, only venturing out of state during her college through doctorate years. Her psychologist Ph.D. in hand, she returned to her home town. It felt normal.  Her one-year post-doc internship took her to an adjacent county; she barely stood the daily travel. Attaining superb evaluation results, Samantha submitted all the necessary paperwork, and all the years of hard work were validated.  A place had been saved for her in her parent’s medical practice; her skills were needed.

Her best friend Vanessa was the polar opposite. She traveled every chance she could during their school years. Sometimes she was able to coax Samantha to join her; most times studies stood in the way. Vanessa went for the same degrees, same schools, and shared rooms with Sammy, her private nickname, throughout their educational escapades. Opposites in some ways, but exactly alike in their passion for the growing Cognitive Behavioral Therapy programs.

Vanessa went out to the west coast for her yearlong internship, promising Samantha she’d come back east after the year was over.

She didn’t.

San Francisco captured her completely, the lifestyle, the music, the climate; it claimed her, body and soul. She’d been putting the bug in Samantha’s ear to please come to San Francisco. There was a spot open in the clinic that Vanessa worked at, but it wouldn’t remain open for long. Haight-Ashbury was the place where it was all happening. Already, at the tail end of June, it was happening on overdrive, and doctors of all stripes were needed.

Samantha promised Vanessa she would think about it. Really think about it this time. The phone call Vanessa had made laid it all out on the table. “I need your scrawny-ass-red-headed stubborn self here. With me. Now. Stat! Pronto! Rápido! I’ll even put flowers in your hair!”

“I love you too,” she said, and they talked for a little while longer.

Samantha wrote out her pros and cons list as she did with every major decision. Putting her pencil down and pushing the paper away across the desk, Samantha swiveled her chair to face the window in her office. The street was the same as it had always been. The patients rarely varied, rarely advanced on the goals they set together, sometimes falling deep into the holes they kept digging for themselves. The hilly terrain, the abundance of trees: all the same, only morphing with the seasons.

As she shook her head, Samantha’s legendary exasperated sigh passed through her lips. Vanessa called it Sammy’s Sigh of Grand Despair.  She laughed at this, which drew other memories pouring in. Hugging herself, all she understood at the moment was that she was missing Vanessa, with a vengeance.

She told her parents about leaving that night, and the discourse went on long into the night. Coffee,  verbal pros and cons, more coffee, further debates, detailed analysis, some crying, some accusations, coffee, defeats, mild acceptances, and finally bed. By 3:23 am, Samantha was planning how she would let her patients know. She wanted to call Vanessa, give her the news, but felt some sleep was imperative to be able to face the morning appointments.

The day progressed mainly how she thought it would. Most understood, all wished her luck, and too many fell in upon themselves. A few went into mild hysterics, but they were able to calm down with Samantha’s help. She assured them that a replacement would be found before she left. Her schedule confirmed that she would see the majority of her patients over the week; the few bi-monthlies she would call.

The one she absolutely dreaded fell on the second day. Her expectations for that session were not very positive, given the history of their encounters. Lisa Davis had, and still was living, a very painful life. Abused by family, physically, emotionally, and though her juvenile records were sealed, sexually as well. Alcohol, sex, and physically releasing her anger were her coping mechanisms. She always picked up the “wrong guy” at one bar or another. More times than not, her encounters left her with bruises and torn clothing. A few times it landed her in the hospital.

Her temper was quick to rise and harder to quell, and she exacted revenge when she could. Tall and wiry, Lisa was in and out of trouble. Her last outburst landed her three months in county, followed by six months in a psych ward. Things settled down inside of her during those nine months, enough so that she was released on the condition she met the court-mandated twice-a-week therapy demands. One more incident, one more going over the line, and it was upstate prison time. She knew it.

Knowing it and caring about it were two different things.

Samantha thought she was prepared for a Lisa Davis outburst; they had been making progress, she felt, and her overall emotional roller coaster seemed to be leveling out. Samantha was wrong. Lisa was edgy when she arrived. Her father was putting demands on her, this time about money. Samantha did some heavy lifting in this session, with Lisa putting up roadblocks along the way.

Their session was almost at an end. Samantha had no choice but to tell Lisa the news so she wouldn’t hear it elsewhere. It did not go well. No matter how she presented the facts of her leaving, Lisa took it deeply personal. Deeply. Things escalated in a hurry. The hurt on her face, blaming herself, flipping it around against Samantha, her issues of abuse, abandonment, disrespect, getting used. Back and forth, back and forth. Every negative emotion overwhelmed Lisa. It finally built into a bursting, all-consuming rage.

Lisa leaped up off the couch. Tears were pouring down, her face turning a hellish red. All of her muscles were constricting and clenching, her hands drawn into vein-popping fists. Samantha bolted out of her chair, trying to make her way to the office door. The thrown framed diploma went flying past her, shattering against the door. Lisa jumped back at that and cringed as the coffee table, with the box of tissues, followed the smashed frame. The door was blocked off.  Samantha backed away slowly, moving behind her desk. She screamed. Lisa, lurching towards her, howled.

When the staff finally were able to make their way in, they stopped, gaping at the destruction.  Everything in the office was in disarray. Books, bookcases, wall hangings, furniture, and other odds and ends were strewn around the room. Lisa had her back to them. Her hands were wrapped around Samantha’s neck, pushing her back against the room’s window.

Samantha was clawing at the strangling hands, scoring rows of broken skins, rivulets of blood mixing together across Lisa’s hands and forearms. She was losing and knew it, her throat squeezed, the intense pain, the lack of incoming air. Through her protruding eyes, she saw her father run up, followed by other staff. It took a blow to the back of Lisa’s head and a kick to the inside of her knees to get her to drop her hands. Down on the other knee, Lisa started to lunge at the guy to her right.

She didn’t get that far. Samantha’s father had picked up the now broken brass desk lamp, swung it with angry force, and again connected with Lisa’s cranium.  She was down. The only sounds in the room were the gulping for air from Samantha. Everyone else was doing what they could to calm their ramped up hearts. Someone had already called the Sheriff’s office.

Her breathing became easier but painful. Samantha’s father led her out of the room, her mother joining them as they made it to the hallway. The Sheriff and his men arrived just Samantha and her parents made it to their car.  He walked over to them and got the gist of what happened. The Sheriff had other questions. Samantha’s mother put a stop to that. She needed the hospital, they could talk later, and the family got in the car and drove off.

It wasn’t until Samantha was being discharged that they found out that Lisa regained consciousness just before the Sheriff entered the office. She hauled off and punched him between the eyes. Really, really hard. Next, she kicked the closest deputy between his legs, tackling and tossing the other deputy out of her way. By the time all were fit enough, Lisa was gone. All law enforcement in the surrounding counties and the State Police were put on alert.

The Sheriff placed one of his men at the Wander house. Instead of feeling secure, Samantha was overwhelmed. She closed the door of her room, picked the phone up, and sat on the floor, back leaning against her bed. She called Vanessa, and the two of them cried through the telling of the events, ending with smiles they both could feel from the other over the phone line when Samantha told Vanessa her decision. The call lasted a while; plans were made. Vanessa was supportive and encouraging.  She regaled Samantha with all the things she would experience when she arrived at the Haight. The Love In happenings.  Live music everywhere. A peaceful stampede of hippies taking over the streets. Acceptance from the young; intolerance from the Hawks.  “It is so alive,” she said.  “We can be. Alive. We can do what we are meant to do, meant to be. You and me.” Samantha listened to it all, interjecting enough so Vanessa knew she was already with her in spirit.

A shiver ran through her, her mind taking her elsewhere. This all sounded wonderful to Samantha. Yet, it was drowned out by one consuming thought:

Lisa was still out there.

 

Present Day

A not so pretty picture was painted that day. Painted and then torn to shreds.

It would not be the only thing ripped apart, in the end.

Lisa was still out there.

There was a car in the woods.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Coffee Roulette: #FridayFictioneers

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dinner-table-prior

PHOTO PROMPT © Yvette PriorC

Coffee Roulette

Steph and Tyler were left. The others were lying dead at the base of the table. Two coffee cups overturned. One drawer opened. Two left alive; two choices to make.

“It’ll be fun,” Sean promised. “Reward’s will be high!” A lark.

It wasn’t.

Sean chose coffee: drank, convulsed, died. Bob the same. Rose chose a drawer. Wrong choices.

“Coffee, or drawer?” The host asked, gun in hand.

Steph thought it was a simple pattern: coffee, coffee, drawer, drawer.

Tyler thought so as well and grabbed the coffee.

Wrong choice.

“Coffee, or drawer?”

$500,000,000. Beaucoup bucks.

Steph reached for the drawer.

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It’s #Friday Fictioneers prompt time, as always created and hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields on her blog, Addicted To Purple.

The rules are simple if you’d like to do this:

    1. Use the photo on Addicted to Purple as your prompt (goes up on Wednesday).
    2. Write a 100 word story, complete with beginning, middle, and end.
    3. Make every word count.
    4. It is proper etiquette to give the contributor of the photo credit.
  1. Add the InLinkz button (below) so your readers can find the dozens of other bloggers who have taken up this challenge.

The Crumpet Slaughter Squad: Chapter One

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@Richard_Kadrey Prompt

Chapter One: Mrs. Teasdale’s Tea

Mrs. Teasdale had set her Afternoon Tea the way she always did: her favourite assortment of sandwiches (Coronation Chicken, Cucumber with butter, and Cheese and Pickle);  Crumpets, with butter and honey on the side; Chopped Date Scones with Strawberry Jam and Clotted Cream; and three tarts (Bakewell, Yorkshire Curd, and Egg Custard). As a final touch she placed a smattering of Fancies around the three plates. She snuck one and took a bite.She was in heaven. And she was expecting company.

The small round table was covered with her finest linen, topped off with her mother’s lace tablecloth. Mrs. Teasdale set out her favorite China and crystal glassware in their traditional placement. The salad plate, centered and surrounded by the linen napkin and fork to the left, the spreader and spoon to the right. Slightly above the spoon stood the water glass, while opposite it, on the same level, was her finest teacup. The small bowel was just off the napkin and fork, alone but never forgotten. The creamer, sugar bowl, serving dish, tea strainer, and at the last minute, the teapot, found their spots in the midpoint between the two settings.

All that was left was to write Ms. Letts name on the place card and set it in the middle of the salad plate, which she did. Now, she was waiting for 4:00 pm, the arrival time for Ms. Letts and the making of the tea. The fresh water was in the tea kettle, waiting to be brought to boiling to make a delightful pot of Earl Grey, as requested by Ms. Letts. Mrs. Teasdale preferred Broken Orange Pekoe but, sadly, that was not the tea she would be seeping today.

The harsh taps of the Wellington door knocker alerted Mrs. Teasdale that her guest had arrived. She scuffled to the front door, patting down her Peach dress, making sure that the white collar laid flat. Yes, all was in place.

Opening the door, Mrs. Teasdale took in Ms. Letts attire. She instantly approved of her understated black dress, draping her figure, the hem falling just below her knees. She noticed the black hosiery, patterned exquisitely. The shiny black pumps helped to make her legs taut and outstanding.

Realizing she was being rude, she lifted her eyes. Mrs. Teasdale took in the Babington shoulder bag, a stylish choice. Her eye-line lifted further, causing a sharp intake of breath. It rested in her throat as she focused on Ms. Letts face.  Shoulder length black hair framed her exquisite porcelain skin. The face, oval-shaped, seemed sculpted. Beautiful brown eyes, arched eyebrows, smooth jawline, and a slim nose, left Mrs. Teasdale almost speechless. Her vanity flared fiercely but she caught herself in time before it showed. At least, she hoped so.

“Smile, you silly git,” she thought as she welcomed Ms. Letts into her abode. They exchanged pleasant greetings. Giving the grand tour of the first floor, they exchanged in small talk, accompanied by smiles both broad and slight. Mrs. Teasdale guided her guest to the sitting room where they would have their afternoon tea. Ms. Letts reached up to the Babington, placing it on the floor by the table. Mrs. Teasdale noticed, for the first time, that Ms. Letts wore dark kid gloves.

Slightly puzzled, as it was a fairly warm day, she bade Ms. Letts to relax while she prepared the tea. “Earl Grey, just as you requested. The shopkeeper assured me that the tea leaves were fresh, delivered just the other day.”

“Oh, Mrs. Teasdale: I almost forgot. Reaching into her large bag she brought out a pastry box that, when opened, sent shivers of joy running through Mrs. Teasdale.

Opening the lid, she exclaimed: “Ms. Letts. This is a stunning Battenberg cake.” She leaned in a little too close, getting a whispered “Tsk” out of Ms. Letts. “It smells heavenly. I will put this in the fridge while I light the oven and bring the water to boil. Please have a seat. It won’t be long.” She left Ms. Letts in the sitting room, entering the adjacent kitchen by its swinging door.

Instead of sitting, Ms. Letts took a stroll around the sitting room. The shelves that held the knick-knacks were well dusted. The Grandfather Clock: spotless. The area rug was wearing in the spots Mrs. Teasdale trod on her path through the room. She admitted it was still pretty, though. Parting the dusty curtains, Ms. Letts looked out the window that faced the park across the road. She noticed the bottom two rows of glass where expertly clear; the top row panes, not so much. She turned her attention and took her seat. Picking up the place card, she let out a slight laugh and put it back in its place.

Mrs. Teasdale lit up the burner full blast. A proper tea is made only with boiling water, her late mother told her time and again. Even after her passing, Mrs. Teasdale followed that rule every time she assembled her afternoon tea.

She turned to the counter on the opposite side of the oven. On the shelf rested the Triple- Tier plate rack, already full of the assortment of sweets. She quickly went to the fridge and brought out the Battenberg, slicing it gently, then placing it artistically around all three of the levels. She finished just as the tea kettle began its screaming.

Mrs. Teasdale moved back towards the kettle and teapot. She did not hear the kitchen door swing open.

Ascertaining that the water was at a perfect boil, Mrs. Teasdale poured some of the hot water into the China teapot. She put down the kettle over the flame and swirled the water around, heating the insides just so. This water was expelled into the adjoining sink.

The tea kettle quickly found its steam, the screeching whistle alerting her it was time. She filled the teapot with the boiled water, quickly adding three hefty teaspoons of the Earl Grey tea leaves. The smell of the tea was intoxicating. She slightly resisted putting the knob on the teapot, but trapping the heat was essential.

As she was doing so,  her lower back, on the right side, was in agony, the pain blazing, causing her to shudder. She shrieked as another stinging, shooting pain tore through her, just under the left shoulder blade. Her legs began wobbling, sinking to her knees as she took two more short sharp shocks. Now unconscious,  Mrs. Teasdale’s upper body smashed into the oven door which hit her face an awful blow.

A violent spasm, from another two blows, sent her to meet the splattered tile floor, face down. She died before she hit. Another set of death jabs created a pattern in Mrs. Teasdale’s back that wouldn’t be noticed while she was covered in her own blood. One more plunge entered at the base of her skull, severing the spinal cord.

While she acknowledged this was overkill, Ms. Letts was compulsive in these matters. Flipping the body onto its back, she cleaned the gore of her Jagdkommondo Tri-Dagger on the Peach obscenity of a dress. She placed it on the counter behind her.

Self-cleansing was next. Standing at the kitchen sink, she mixed the hot and cold waters to give her the warm setting she needed. She quickly found the dish soap, dabbing it lightly on her gloves. Under the running water, she massaged all surfaces of the gloves until the last of Mrs. Teasdale’s blood swirled away.

Patting the kid leather to a damp state with a kitchen towel was followed by scrubbing the sink with the same towel. Once she was satisfied, she poured a liter of bleach down the drain, finding it in a cubby under the sink with other cleaning sprays and material.

When she first entered the kitchen she brought, from her purse, two seal-able plastic bags. Taking one from the food counter, the kitchen towel was shoved inside. Taking another cloth, she took off and wiped down her pumps top and bottom. She had stood to the side when the first stab dug in but the spray was stronger than she anticipated.

Next into the bag went her hose, ruined to hell with the viscous that spurted. She cleaned her legs off with the towel and hand soap and put her heels back on. Giving herself a last once-over, she decided to reclean her shoes. The top was as clean as it would be, for now. With one last kitchen towel and soap, Ms. Letts scrubbed down the outsole, shank, heel, and heel tip. The linen joined the others in the plastic bag. It would find its way into her shoulder purse, joined by its unused mate, when she vacated the kitchen.

Picking up her dagger, and then her skirt, she sheathed her weapon of choice. It attached to her outer thigh, comfortable and hidden. Ms. Letts let her dress fall, making sure that there was no outward sign of the death she always carried.

The bakery box she had brought in was off to the side of the counter. She looked over the sweets laid out but didn’t take any. “Willpower. Must not.” Repeating her mantra a few times, Ms. Letts picked up the empty bakery box, disposal bags, and then the teapot. Stepping over the drying blood, she went into the sitting room.

Sitting at her assigned seat, she picked up the strainer, laying it on top of the teacup.  Lifting the teapot and tilting it, the tea flowed, the strainer capturing the leaves of Earl Grey. The smell was enticing, and her first sip was bliss. It was strong, hot, and delicious as it was. No need for sugar nor cream. When the last drop in the china cup was exhausted,  into the bag it went, along with the place card. She laughed again, this time a little bit shriller. The false name was delicately inscribed.

One last look around the sad, little room and she was up. Stowing the plastic bag into her Babington, Ms. Letts placed it on her shoulder after fastening the clasp. Picking up the empty bakery box, she headed to the front door, carefully retracing the worn pathway that Mrs. Teasdale had set. She stopped just before grasping the doorknob and sighed.

Turning, she hurried back to the kitchen and swung the door open. Mad for crumpets, like the others in their club, she took the four on the tiered display and placed them in the bakery box, closing the lid.

Once done, she focused on Mrs. Teasdale one last time. The pool of blood that spread under the body was starting to congeal. It had spread to an almost perfect circle, the exsanguinated reposed figure cutting the ratio into fragments.

Finally, she turned her attention to the flaccid face. The facial muscles were giving up the ghost sure but steady. Mrs. Teasdale’s weak chin and pouting lips were folding into the double jowls of her neck. Her broad nose was wider, the damage caused by her face slamming into the oven door. Her jumpy brown eyes were open, staring at nothing. “I thought so,” she muttered, noticing the hairpiece Mrs. Teasdale wore was in disarray, showing off the thinned out scalp that glittered from the overhead lights.

“Thank you for inviting me to tea. It was lovely.”

The lump of dead flesh didn’t answer back.

Ms. Letts left the house after she made sure no one was out for a walk. Unlocking her car with a “Beep!” she quickly entered it, locking the doors and starting up the engine. Pushing the button under the console, the back and side windows tinted a shade darker. Placing her shoulder bag in the passenger seat, she removed the empty plastic bag. She backed up, turned left once on the road, and headed to the secluded spot that framed the park.

Once settled she opened the bag. She stripped off her gloves and tossed them in. The wig was next, setting her long red hair free. This was followed by the contacts, the brown irises replaced with her natural green. Kicking off her heels, she replaced them with the Constellation trainers that were in her Babington. The difference in comfort was astounding.

Digging deep into her shoulder bag she located her burner cell phone and turned it on. While it was warming up and finding satellite coverage, Wendy aka Ms. Letts, opened her bag for one more item: the package of moist towelettes. She wiped her face and neck, the ivory makeup a bit stubborn but the towelettes worked. Taking another one, she gave her legs another go. It was a good thing as there was a light shade of blood that transferred off her skin and onto the towelette.

By the time she added the used wipes to the disposable bag, the burner had cycled through all of its gymnastics. She placed a call. It went straight to the club’s voice mail.

“Ladies, Wen here. My afternoon tea was perfect. I hope all of yours were just as splendid. I’m looking forward to tonight’s round of sharing. Ta for now.”

She turned the phone off, took out the battery, and tossed it into the disposal bag, sealing it tight.

Starting the car and revving it a few times, Wendy laughed as she put it in gear and hit the road home.

As she sped along, she opened up the bakery box that she had placed on the passenger seat. Reaching in, she took out a crumpet. No jam. No clotted cream. Just a bite and she was in heaven.

It had been a splendid tea.

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Author’s Note:

I get a kick out of prompts. Right now, creatively, I need these jumping off points. That’s what you’re seeing here on Tale Spinning. I have a few projects of my own I’m procrastinating with that I hope I’ll finish and try to do something with them. We’ll see.

The above pic is one of them, created by Author Richard Kadrey. He has been posting, on Twitter, reworked/photo-shopped covers of old pulp(ish) novels, changing them to show off his brand of humor. I just thought it’d be fun to write a few things from Mr. Kadrey’s posting: so, yes, this is my writing, not Mr. Kadrey’s.

Richard Kadrey is a writer, photographer, comic book writer, and an all-around interesting guy. His fiction straddles the Urban Fantasy, Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Cyberpunk worlds, and he’s pretty darn good with it all. I fell in love with his writing starting with his first Sandman Slim novels. Gritty, sometimes violent, often full of whimsy, worth reading. He’s not just another pretty face.

You can check out more fun covers by following him on Twitter @Richard_Kadrey.

To get into his body of work, visit him at his website: Richard Kadrey

Stuck On You

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Glued-people

Stuck On You

#Flash Fiction Prompt

“How are you? I’m OK, but I’m leaking glue.”

Elsie stared at Elmer in disbelief. They had been together for a while now. He’d always been a bit bullish, and she adored that about him, especially in the sack. He was almost always horny, and that was fine with her, as long as they weren’t chewing the cud. Nothing ruins mating like starting a discussion.

Like now.

“What do you mean, you’re “leaking glue?”

Elmer had been behind her, as was his want, but mooved around so he was facing her to make that statement. She loved the milky whiteness of his skin, the baleful ferociousness that was offset by the cravings she saw in his big brown eyes. She loved how he was outstanding in his field, how Angus and the others freely gave him his stomping grounds.  Elsie loved a lot of things about Elmer, but this…this was scary. He was not one prone to joking around or making existential statements. He was more of a grunting hulk, moody at times, but…that was just his way.

“I’m…I’m OK as well, Elmer,” she stammered out. “Honey, what do you mean? You’re leaking glue? Is that a joke?”

He didn’t answer. Elmer mooved away slightly, staring off in the distance. She turned in the same direction as his gaze. She saw nothing out of the ordinary. The young ones were frolicking over the meadow, no matter how many times they were swatted to stop. Over by the clump of trees a number of their crowd were just lazing around. Elsie noticed Bessie-that heifer!-was there, making eyes at anyone who would pay attention. She had been with Elmer when they were younger, but he had mooved on. He was with her, now, and she’d be darned if…no, he wasn’t looking at her.

What was he looking at?

She waited with him, patiently at first. He wasn’t paying her any attention, and she wasn’t used to that. Sure, they’d stand around all day, catching rays, or hang out under the trees. But, Elmer had always been Present. This, this was unlike him, and it made her skittish.

The sun moved west, and the light of the day began to wane. The others began to mosey indoors; it was feeding time, and none of them would wait a second longer if they didn’t have to. Elsie stayed because Elmer stayed. He was lost inside of himself; she had no idea why.

The light of the day slowly turned to darkness, accentuated by the twinkling far away lights. The moon was full and bright, which allowed her to see quite well. Her gaze was on Elmer. His was still elsewhere.

The grumblings in her tummies had grown to an uncomfortable level. Head hung down, Elsie thought to swat Elmer, mad at what went on this day. Her better sense of propriety won out, and with one last look at Elmer, she started to saunter off to be with the others.

She had only taken eight steps when Elmer said his first word since earlier in the day.

“Elsie?”

She stopped. Her heart began to race. Elsie slowly turned around to face him. The faraway look that held him was still focused, but focused on her. She stayed where she was, rooted to ground. The grass, which had been getting taller, swayed around her.

“Elsie,” he said again. “Have you ever thought why we are here? What our purpose for being is all about?”

“Ugh,” she thought. “Existentialism, just as I was not hoping for.” She shook her head, dismayed. A smattering of bells, discordant in nature, accompanied her gesture.

“Do we have the right to be happy? If we do, is it something we have to earn? Do we have to have commonality to really connect with another?

All day, I’ve thought of all these things, and more. The why, the where, the how, the what, and when… these thoughts rushed over me. When they did…the questions: they froze me in place. I felt small, for the first time, as I began to…to…” Elmer trailed off into silence.

“What? You began to what?” Elsie asked, with a tone in her voice that she never, ever, used with Elmer.

“Contemplate. Us. You and me. Our crowd, our offspring, our being in this place, right here, right now.

I came up with some thoughts I’d like to share with you, if you’ll bear with me.”

She shivered at the thoughts of bears. She knew that wasn’t what he meant, but the image was placed in her skull. She hated bears.

Elmer cleared his throat. Elsie quietly sighed.

“I’m OK, but I’m leaking glue.

Bound together, me and you…”

“Poetry? You wasted the day on poetry?”

Elmer glared at her. If there was a stronger light source, she’d believe his eyes were turning red.

“I’m sorry. Please, go on.”

He shook his head, clearing his mind, centering himself. He began again.

“I’m OK, but I’m leaking glue.

It binds us together, making us true.”

“That’s not what you said before.”

“It’s a work in progress. Humor me.”

Elsie sighed again, and nodded her acquiescence.

He coughed. “Please let me finish.” Without waiting for a response, he soldiered on.

“I’m OK, but I’m leaking glue;

It binds us together, making us true.

The reason I am here on this Earthly place

Becomes clearer as I look upon your face.

A gentle peace resides within,

Even though we occasionally sin

Yet a more beautiful heart I will not find,

Especially one with a wondrous behind.

It matters not what others may say,

I will love you to my dying day.

No tears, no tears, my heart does swell,

As in this dell do we dwell.

Let what I feel spread to all around

My love is strong; to you I’m bound.

No matter whatever roles we’re meant to be,

Why we’re us and not some flea.

We’re here together; it is our due,

 I’m yours, forever.

 I’m leaking glue.”

To Elsie, it was a bit laughable, but in the end it really wasn’t. This day she felt her heart grow three times its size. Tears started to well in her limpid eyes. She mooved close to Elmer and leaned against him.

They stayed that way through most of the night, not saying much at all.

Towards the dawn, they both snuffled a bit with the rising dew around them. Elsie started to quietly chuckle.

“What’s that for?” Elmer asked

Elsie leaned her head on his, closing her eyes.

“I think I’m stuck on you, too.” Elsie paused. “You do know, that was a bit cheesy.”

The two of them laughed, and were still laughing, when the others came out for the day.

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Author’s Note: Yes, the above came from a prompt, which was:

 “How are you? I’m OK, but I’m leaking glue.”

That line was actually said to either Debs or David of Fiction Can Be Fun. They hold prompts once a month, and post here and there when they can. Life, y’now? They collaborate on the site as well as write together: they are in the midst of fleshing out their WIP. I’ve read the bones of it, and I am excited to read it all when they care to share their showable draft.

If you want to take up the prompt challenge, Here There Are Rules:

Please post on your own site and add a link in the comments section [on Fiction Can Be Fun].  If you don’t have your own blog or similar outlet, do send us your story via the contact form on the About page and we’ll post for you, with an appropriate by-line.  

Word count: up to 1,500
Deadline: 2pm GMT on Friday 8th June 2018

Please do not submit anything that would be NSFW.

Now shoo. Have fun storming the castle.

Reflections of the 2018 #AtoZ Blog Challenge: The Abysmal Dollhouse

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A-to-Z Reflection [2018]

For all the information you could ever want about the AtoZ Blog Challenge, Click:  Blogging From A to Z Challenge.

This was my fifth AtoZ Blog Challenge:

The rules are simple: During the month of April, you commit to writing 26 blogs, each day based off the run ot the alphabet. Up to you how you do that. Blog hop around, read and comment on other blogs, build a community. Don’t sleep. You had to sign up through the AtoZ main page. From that, most people chose and announced their Theme (more below): I signed on late, missed that, and, well…I had no idea what I was going to do up to two days before it started.

Yes, I am that unorganized.

I actually had another idea that I thought would be funny, but when I realized the main character I wanted to use was verbotten, the idea lost all its allure. Quelle dommage. That had me in a bit of a spin; I asked on Tale Spinning if anyone wanted to see me continue some previous storylines that I liked, or should I try something new. I got two: TWO, and only two, requests. Hence, The Abysmal Dollhouse.

I have written TAD stories since 2012. Almost always positive comments. A few followers suggested I should add more to the oeuvre and publish it. Hemming and hawing, procrastinating, all my usual excuses for not committing fully added up to one fact: I didn’t.

Scared? Insecure? A rough number of years on so many levels? No motivation? Creativity and passion just drained away?  Lump them all together and I just never carried it through, letting the ideas pretty much just lay there, occasionally bursting forth. Definitely not often enough. Tale Spinning was pretty much an empty space for the last couple of years.

In actuality, boredom with my life, and myself, kicked me in the arse.

I’m what is known as a Pantser: I don’t prewrite, rarely have an outline, especially for continuing series that I like, and only have a basic idea that I use as a jumping off point. When I started off this round of TAD, I just thought I’d continue on my “Monster of the Week” stories, letting the letter of the day create my title, which then started my writing for the day.

One thing I do do (hee hee. Oh, sue me) is take a little bit of time for research. In this case, I just went online and found a whole bunch of Weird, Murder, or Haunted Houses around the world. I chose a number of places that I thought would be great prompts for every day of the challenge. Didn’t use even half of what I found, this go around.

Something happened that changed in me really early on in the process: I started creating a backstory/mythology for the series and began to drop hints and clues about the backgrounds of The Unfolding Doll and the Shopkeeper. Yes: I started to shed my pantsing and began-gasp!-planning. Not 100%, still no outline, but things were starting to gel and I got much more invested in what I was writing.

I look at it this way: X-Files had many episodes of Monster of the Week, with episodes of their mythology scattered here and there. A MOTW episode could still give us more background info on Scully & Mulder while kinda sorta avoiding the BIG story. Character development and whatnot. That’s how I was viewing all this.

Then the next change happened: I got some new readers, who commented, questioned, told me what they liked, and I felt they were really invested in what was going to happen next. I had that in 2016 with that year’s storyline (link at top of the page), but not to this extent. It kind of added to the challenge for me; it definitely altered my thinking on the storyline.

The ending may seem rushed (it was) but I had dropped hints and clues in many of the stories. It’s hard to fill in all the details when I was trying to limit the daily posts to around 1,000 words. Many people will skip a long posting, and I know I lost potential readers for that reason. Nothing I can do about that. I’m sure many will pass up this reflection for the very same reason. Quelle dommage, part two.

For those who might have missed the main posting where I dropped a lot of clues, go to the “I” posting: In The Absence Of…

A couple of more things: please bear with me.

One thing I’m “frustrated” with are the posts that I thought I was being witty with. Alas, alas, alas.  Too gimmicky? Too obtuse? Spot on? No idea: no feedback. Jabber Wonky was my attempt to play on the Jabberwocky poem in Alice in Wonderland (which gave me the reason to rhyme what goes on in The Child’s mind). I used some of the verbal tomfooleries in the piece, more as an homage; In Quoth the Riven, I think it was pretty obvious. I actually wrote following the path Poe’s poem took. One of my favorite pieces by him.; Orchestra! Curtain! Lights! was my wink to one of my favorite things-animation. It’s the opening lyrics from “The Bugs Bunny Show” theme song. My story has nothing to do with Bugs & Daffy, but Orchestra! was my jumping off point for the tale.

I did not blog hop as much as I was hopping to. I always say I’ll do more, and I did, this year, but I fall far short of others. My apologies. I did happen to come across some wonderfully written blogs along the way and picked up some new blogging friends. I’d like to thank (in no particular order): David, Debs, Sharri, Ms. Wolf, Iain, Jo, Jacqui, Varard, and Melanie. If I’ve forgotten anyone, please forgive me. As to previous readers/bloggers: thanks for sticking with me. Roy: didn’t make that many mistakes this time around, eh?

Special thanks go to Arlee Bird for starting this whole thing, and to the hosts who share the duties. It’s been a blast of a month. Next year? When the time comes, we’ll find out.

Thank you, everyone.

Liebster Award Sunday: not lobster; Abysmal Dollhouse/AtoZ Blog Challenge

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** New Readers to this challenge: This is a serialized, continuous work. Please start with the first piece, Abysmally Yours. The AtoZ Blog Challenge began April 1st; ends April 30th. Thank you.
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“Share, Discover, and Enjoy!” That is the underlying mission of Shari Marshall’s blog, Writing is Communication. We discovered our mutual blogs through the 2018 AtoZ Blog Challenge. It has been a pleasure discovering her work: focusing on a fantasy world continuing story through a drabble (100-word complete flash fiction). It’s not easy to par down all you want to say in just 100 words, make the post complete, AND have it tell an engaging ongoing narrative…well, Shari accomplishes it, and does so very, very well. I’ve linked the title to her blog: go check it out. Now. Shoo. Do it. I’ll stick around for the nonce.

As to the Leibster Award: AtoZ and other blog challenges are two-fold. (1) The most obvious is that they are challenges for the blogger to meet the requirements in whatever they are tasked to do; not always the easiest thing to accomplish, but the reward is in making a go of it and hoping you can see it through to the end. (2) The most important element (to me, anyways) is to discover new blogs and their creators. I’ve come across some amazing sites, followed & continue to follow most, became online friends with a lot of them, and one more intense crossing of paths.

Nominating blogs you admire is tied into the blogging community. It shows appreciation for what you’ve produced beyond hitting a like button, or stars ratings; even beyond leaving a gushing comment or three. While there are many “rules” for the Leibster Award, here are the

RULES OF THE LIEBSTER AWARD 2018
The rules are:

1. Acknowledge the blogger who nominated you and display the award logo.
2. Answer 11 questions that the blogger sets for you.
3. Nominate blogs that you think are deserving of the award.
4. Create 11 questions for your nominees to answer.
5. Let your nominees know about their nomination!

Hey Shari: I acknowledge you. Phew. That one was easy peasy.

I shall now endeavor to answer her eleven questions, sorta like a magical quest:

  1. Do you think that a writer has to be defined by one genre?

Absolutely not. I do my darndest not to. I believe a writer should move beyond what becomes their comfort zone.  Write what moves you that day. I’ve attempted a lot of genres and styles. Some more successful than others. My blog is an open…blog. The list of the last 50 or so is to the right. Scroll down. Discover. I have favorites that went nowhere.

2. What is your favourite writing topic?

Paranormal stuff. Horror, lately, it seems.

3. Do you have a book that you recommend to other readers on a regular occasion? What and why?

Knots, by RD Laing. It blew my mind wide open at 17. I suggest that if you tackle it, you must read it in one sitting, late at night. If you do, I think you’ll also get a good insight of the mess that is my thinking process.

4. Book version or movie version?

Depends on the book and the movie. Each is its own animal. Caveat: If the movie is trying to be a “faithful adaptation” of the book, then you better damn well be faithful. Loose adaptations, where the director is adding her/his voice (which is the majority) I’ll try and take it as a separate entity. Please note: I wrote “try.” Just be good. Don’t suck.

5. If I gave you the word “vellichor” as a writing jump off point where might you jump?

The Last Used Bookstore In The Known Worlds

6. What would be your dream setting to write in?

THE comfy chair, headrest perfectly aligned (with massage system embedded and  attuned to every ache). THE perfectly brewed Black Cherry Iced Tea. THE best snack at hand: sweet or savory, as needed. THE well-trained puppy and kitten, needing attention; being perfect momentary distractions. Last, but definitely not least, THE love of my life, for fuller distraction and attention, cuddles, kisses, massages (who need the comfy chair, then?), and other things only she can provide.

7. What is your favourite season?

Fall. Cool, breezy weather. Ahhhhhhhhhhhh

8. Who is your favourite villain? Why?

Catwoman. Meow. Does one really need to ask?

9. Who is your favourite hero? Why?

I’m Batman, Damnit.

10. What does writing mean to you?

Release. Distraction. Creativity. Justification. Acknowledgement. Appreciation. Love.

11. How would you respond to either of these quotes from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, “If you don’t know where you are going any road can take you there” or “No wise fish would go anywhere without a porpoise.”

I’ll take “The Road Less Traveled” for $2000, Alex.

Phew. All done. Wait? That was only #2 on the Liebster rules????? OY…I’m dying!!! Ok, here are my TOP OF THE POPS:

Fiction Can Be Fun   Yes, both of you!!!

A Creatvie PTSD Gal

A Bit To Read

Iain Kelly

Swerve Strikes Again

WordDreams

I’m exhausted. But wait…there’s more.

OK. Here are MY elven…um…I mean eleven questions that the six nominees (well, 7) NEED to answer. There will be a quiz. BONUS POINTS: answer any of the questions with WHY you answered that way. Up to you. No pressure. ::::Unfolding Doll sharpening its knife::::

  1. If you could write in any writers voice besides your own, whose would it be?
  2. What literary genre holds NO interest for you?
  3. What song with a strong narrative still touches you?
  4. What fictional character do you wish you were?
  5. Savory or Sweet?
  6. What are “The Stuff Dreams Are Made Of?”
  7. You stumble upon a magic rock. Picking it up, you discover something underneath. What is it?
  8. Have you had an inexplicable experience? What was it?
  9. What fiction book would you recommend to me?
  10. What movie or TV show do you love but hate to admit it?
  11. What does writing mean to you? (yes, I’m stealing it from Shari. Deal).

Have fun kiddos.

I’m done. Lunch and nap.

Tomorrow: N is for…

Muirhouse: The Abysmal Dollhouse (AtoZ Blog Challenge)

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** New Readers to this challenge: This is a serialized, continuous work. Please start with the first piece, Abysmally Yours. The AtoZ Blog Challenge began April 1st; ends April 30th. Thank you.

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Muirhouse

The Abysmal Dollhouse

The dollhouse was in the style of a Classic Colonial. Two floors, plus attic with peaked gables. A second story wrap-around porch was accented by a finely detailed iron railing, the parquet wood flooring glistening. A stone walkway led to a stone staircase, a few steps to the stone portico in place before the red colored front door. The house, itself, was painted red, with white accented shutters and moldings. Spacious, elegant for its time, a dream house by manys’ standards.

Mrs. Harris hated the house. Hated everything that transpired within. Hated what went on behind closed doors, what transgressions that were out in the open. Hated the people that had moved through the rooms. Hated what had been locked up, out back. The only thing she didn’t hate was herself. Mrs. Harris was furious, and that fury bound her to the house; from the house to this replica. That, she did not know. She just hated the house.

The back room, where the maids were supposed to have made their bed, had been converted into a chapel. Mrs. Harris was on her knees on the padded kneeler, eyes closed, head bowed. She wore, as always her large silver cross that stood out against her all black dress. Her hair, tightly bunned, was covered in a black shawl. No frills, no lace, no adornments other than the cross.

Finished, she rose and commenced her prowl of the premises. Up the back stairs, the ones the maids took to Mr. Harris’s bedroom, or he to theirs, she took at an even pace. At the top was her iron rod. She picked it up, as always. Down the hall she went, stopping at his door.

Grasping the doorknob, she remembered back to the findings. One she chased, through the hall to the screen door that led to the wrap-around landing. She had raised her rod, as she had to do again and again to this ghastly servent in her duties, and by bringing it down in her distress caused the blow that caved in the side of the maid’s head and sent her tumbling over the side. The blood stain on the stone steps below never was completely washed away.

Grasping the doorknob, she remembered another maid, but this one her husband intervened, grabbing the rod and forcing her from the room. He never allowed his wife to be alone with this one, hiring a male servant to watch over her: she was with child. Mr. Harris’s, and he was damned if his wife would cause further harm. “Not while I am alive. Not while this is my house!” he bellowed.

Mrs. Harris backed away from the door, her hand clasping the knob until it escaped out of her grasp. She meandered then, in and out of rooms, up to the attic, back down to the landing, looking. Searching.

More than a few times she felt something pulling at her. The feeling would be faint and off in a distance. She would find herself rushing to stand at one of the windows, looking out and up. A hunger roused itself and willfully slipped out of her lips: “Mine, mine, mine.” Repeated until the force subsided, the silence of the house and her heart returning.

She went down the main stairway, passing by the words written in dried brownish-black. “Die Jack…ha ha ha” had lost its feeling long before. That was after the child had been born, the child that wasn’t right in its head. The child that grew to like playing with knives. The child she “cared” for after its mother met with an unfortunate accident after Mr. Harris suddenly…went away.

Dragged to the chapel by Mrs. Harris twice a day, every day, the child was whipped until it understood it needed to be quiet while she prayed. Dragged to the back of the house, the child was chained to the stone housing of the woodshed. The child, whose mother read of a wonderland, before her accident, had no further schooling beyond what was experienced in the chapel.

Every day, at 4:00 p.m., Mrs. Harris would leave the house and bring it its food. She would look down at it while it wolfed what she served. Speaking of religion, of release, of abstracts that went well over the child’s’ head and heart, Mrs. Harris droned daily.

For three days a month, all in a row, every month, instead of food at 4:00 p.m., Mrs. Harris brought out a very sharp knife from the kitchen. At first, the child would whimper as it knew what was coming; the cuts, slowly delivered but not deep. Three each day, for three days. The child eventually fell into the pattern, knowing that it would be fed, again, after the cutting stopped. For the time being.

The child grew.

One day, it broke free. Entering the house through the kitchen back door, frightened and wary, the child saw something shining on a counter by a screened in window that looked out at the woodshed. His eyes danced over it: the knife, the knife, the knife. He took time glaring at it, breathing in short sharp bursts, until finally taking it in hand he raised it up high.

The light filtered from outside filtered through the screen and the window’s glass. It refracted, the glare causing a vertical and horizontal like that intersected. As the no longer child looked, he saw what looked like the silver cross that the woman always wore. The sight frightened him. Trembling, he fled the house, knife still in hand.

He ran, he ran, he ran.

At 3:45 p.m., Mrs. Harris walked into the kitchen, ready to dole out the child’s meal. She immediately saw her knife was missing. Looking over the counter, she glanced outside and noticed something else was missing. “Good,” she said to herself.

She had hated the child as she had hated the house and everything it was about.

Locking the kitchen door, she waited until it was 4:00 p.m. As she was leaving the room, on the way to her chapel, she felt something pulling at her, from a distance.

Walking to the front room, past the staircase, Mrs. Harris waited at the picture window, looking out and up, and heard herself saying “Mine, mine, mine.”

To be continued…

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The AtoZ Blog Challenge

During the month of April, 2018, the challenge requires that we write 26 posts, starting with the letter A on April 1st (yes, it’s not an April Fool’s Day joke) and ending with Z on Monday, April 30th. A week or so later, there will be a reflection post that will wrap up this experience, for me as well as my readers.

*I’ve decided to reblog past Abysmal Dollhouse stories on Sundays since we’re not required to write those days. The reblog will not correspond to any specific letter. Just thought you might enjoy some of the previous entries that I’m fond of.

The Monte Cristo Homestead in Junee, Australia, inspired this piece. It is supposed to be the most haunted house in Australia, with a fairly ghastly background. I hope I did it justice here, taking some of the backgrounds and weaving it to suit this series.

Muir, by the way, means “moor” in Scotish. Just kinda fit.

Listen…: The Abysmal Dollhouse (AtoZ Blog Challenge

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** New Readers to this challenge: This is a serialized, continuous work. Please start with the first piece, Abysmally Yours. The AtoZ Blog Challenge began April 1st; ends April 30th. Thank you.

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Listen…

The Abysmal Dollhouse

The Unfolding Doll slouched in shadow, the darkness punctured by pinpricks of from out there. It wasn’t photophobic, fear not an emotion that it took in but rather exuded. Its prey reeked of fear, drawing the doll along. Emotions were not a foundation it drew upon. Instead, it was attuned to severe emotional states of those out there; the heartbeats projecting as they quickened; the mental waves that crashed upon each other in disarray; the breathes coming in short, jagged waves. Anger. Sorrow. Guilt. Greed. Menace. Fear.

If the Unfolding Doll could relish anything, fear would top its list. Fear was a calling from the shadow.

Out there, the Unfolding Doll sensed the excitement from the houses. Not the complacent ones. The others, whose hunger was always throbbing, fed or not. It sensed more than heard the plaintive peals of “mine, mine, mine” that ran along the edges. The greedy ones, always wanting more. The doll was in tune with these; there were always more to be made “mine.” Symbiotic yearning, melting together in want. Its blade ached for action.

The Shopkeeper steered the man away from the corners of the shoppe. Upon entering, his “harumph” made evident what he thought. He brusquely told her about his twin daughters upcoming birthday. They wanted a dollhouse, “of all things.” He was busy, needing to get back to his office, his wife nagging him to get their present.

His cell rang and he answered it, talking finances at a rapid clip, ending the call as abruptly as he took it. “I don’t have all day. What’s good for two seven-year-old dreamers?”

He spat the word “dreamers” out.

“Mine, mine, mine,” were insistent calls from the back wall. He wasn’t listening beyond his own head, his plans, and meetings, the deal to broker, the way his assistant bent over his desk. The Shopkeeper guided him to where the calls were hungriest.

“Hush,” she subvocalized.

A lighthouse stood on the shelf; it towered over the surrounding replicas. The white and red painting was pristine as it wound its way around the cylinder form. The deck at the top extended from the watchtower; all looking as if it had just been produced. The tiny house at the bottom was made of the same material. He touched it with some force.

“It’s solid, I’ll give you that. But, I said dollhouse, not..”

The Shopkeeper unclasped the latch and the lighthouse and dwelling below swung open.

He noticed the details in the living quarters, the bedding and rugs, the table and chairs, and miniature toys scattered on the floor. In the lighthouse itself, he admired the spiral staircase. “Metal?” he inquired. She nodded her head.

She left him, returning to her counter.

Having no preconceptions, nor any real care when he entered the shoppe, the man was fascinated. He had lived in Florida most of his childhood. The beaches were his playground and the lighthouses he saw were always in the distance. His father would tell ghost stories about them, the mysterious deaths and hauntings, the shipwrecks and the ghostly crews seeking revenge. His father delighted in scaring him.

Some sound caught his attention. It came again, closer. Seagulls. Seagulls were flying around the lighthouse, landing on the deck so high above, taking off and swooping down. One splattered its last meal on the sleeve of his suit. In disgust he tried wiping it off, only making it worse.

The door to the residence was open. Walking inside, he called out. No response, but he saw the sink with a towel draped over its edge. It was still damp. Blotting his sleeve, he called out again. Again, no answer. He kicked a toy boat out of his way as he advanced further in.

The staircase loomed over him. Sweat began to form on his brow, his hands were clammy, and his heartbeat skipped along a little bit harder. His father’s stories swept through his mind but he brushed them away, uneasy that he would allow that man to upset him still after all these years.

He began the climb. Success wouldn’t have been his all these years if he didn’t meet every challenge and conquer it. He climbed, 219 steps, each one presenting, in his mind, deals he had made, enemies he had tossed away, people he had screwed over, women he had screwed with, those he had crushed on his way to the top.

As he climbed, the light through the glass dome receeded. It was replaced by the rolling of the lighthouse lens. He stopped so near the top. He hadn’t heard it turn on. No one had answered his call. Thinking about it, he hadn’t heard the seagulls either for a while. Standing still for a moment, he was about to turn around and go back down.

Steel scraping on steel from below. One long, continuous squealing sound of metal on metal circled up the staircase, echoing off the inside of the lighthouse. He was about to call out, demand an answer, but his father had buried too many nightmare tales in his memories. He had scoffed at horror films: why did they always call out “is anyone there?” just before…

Running. The metal staircase reverberated with the sound and vibrations of something running upwards. The strident metal sound grew more discordant as it got closer. Turning, he bolted up the remaining steps.

At the top were two shadowed figures, hand in hand. Small, they reminded him of his daughters. Shadow outlines of long hair, dresses, a hint of washed out colors as the light came around, blinding him momentarily, not giving him a chance to focus clearly.

The noise from below made him move towards the figures. They drifted away as he advanced. Reaching the door to the deck, it flew open as the figures disappeared. He made it onto the deck and tried to shut the door.

A hand blocked the way. When the light came around, he saw it was clothlike. He screamed, backing away. The Unfolding Doll stepped out after him, knife in hand, honed to perfection on its journey up the staircase.

He turned for a moment, realizing the height they were at. He listened to the crashing of the waves below, the return of the gulls cries, and they stabbed through whatever reserve he had left, as the Unfolding Doll completed the job.

***

Far away, it was 4:00 p.m.

To be continued…

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The AtoZ Blog Challenge

During the month of April, 2018, the challenge requires that we write 26 posts, starting with the letter A on April 1st (yes, it’s not an April Fool’s Day joke) and ending with Z on Monday, April 30th. A week or so later, there will be a reflection post that will wrap up this experience, for me as well as my readers.

*I’ve decided to reblog past Abysmal Dollhouse stories on Sundays since we’re not required to write those days. The reblog will not correspond to any specific letter. Just thought you might enjoy some of the previous entries that I’m fond of.

The St. Augustine Lighthouse in Florida is also a very haunted place to visit. There are many tales told of ghostly happenings. Supposedly, the ghosts of two young girls who mysteriously died during construction still can be seen.

Be careful if they beckon.

Heights Withering: The Abysmal Dollhouse (AtoZ Blog Challenge)

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** New Readers to this challenge: This is a serialized, continuous work. Please start with the first piece, Abysmally Yours. The AtoZ Blog Challenge began April 1st; ends April 30th. Thank you.

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Heights Withering

The Abysmal Dollhouse

Madelaine stood, transfixed, in front of the elaborate dollhouse. She had given scant acknowledgement to the store girl, breezing past her greeting. She was here only to waste time until lunch: she had been bored with the shops she passed by. This place caught her eye. First it was the sun reflecting off the window. No signage. No attempt to draw her in. Challenge, and accepted.

But now, taking off her Panthere de Cartier sunglasses, Madelaine wiped at her moisture falling, threatening to run down her face. The mascara stained her fingers. Closing her eyes, she took in ten precise breaths and slowly let them go, rouged mouth pursed. Placing her sunglasses back on, Madelaine opened her eyes, then her purse, found a moisture pad, and cleaned off her fingers. With the snap of her purse, she fixated on the replica in front of her.

Banff Springs Hotel. Stone facade, it’s many floors filled with windows. These were surrounded by artisan crafted trimming.  She studied it from a variety of angles, finally settling onto the tower. Painter tower, named so for the architect who designed the remodeling of the main part of the hotel, with the addition of this tower…and which information she could not have cared less about, but for the droning of the hotel’s sales pitch.  The information, now, was branded in her memory.

The Shopkeeper had kept her silence, watching the young woman’s intensity. Quietly, she walked over, reached across with a subdued “excuse me,” unlatched and opened the tower’s facepiece. She went back, retrieved her duster, and busied herself around the perimeter of the shoppe.

Madeline thought she heard the girl whisper “Hush,” but with no one else in the place, she felt she must be mistaken. She knew it was not directed towards her.

The Painter Tower had been built with the idea of hosting events and galas. Two glass encased ballrooms sat floors from each other near the top; the mountains looming around the site were a view to behold under any condition. Yet, that night, she had thought they were more than magnificent, the clear star-laden sky and shining moon felt magical. She felt it fit the way it should, for her, on her wedding night.

The bridal party’s room was on the floors beneath. Madelaine moved figures around, furniture, doors that noiselessly opened or closed. It was all so precise, so accurate. She felt tears welling again, but she tamped them down. Hard.

There. The Bride’s Suite. Expertly fitted. Full-length mirrors. Lighted vanities for hair and make-up.  Wardrobe racks. Screens. Superbly crafted furniture that was, beyond expectation, comfortable. Including the settee. Including the champagne.

Madelaine walked over the to wardrobe rack. Her gown was still in its plastic sheath. She took off the covering, deposited her sunglasses on the closest vanity surface, and ran her fingers along the material of her gown: a Sophia Tolli, its sleeveless misty tulle, beaded lace, plunging neckline, and a scalloped lace hem. The pearl buttons down the lace back were exquisite.

Bringing it over to the mirrors, Madelaine held it up and fell in love with the dress all over again. She had to try it on.

She was down to her underwear, reaching around to unhook her bra when she heard the door behind her open. She froze. “No, no…not again,” she whispered to herself. Yet, the actions began their deja vu on steroids.

He came behind her, running his hands up and down her arms, her chest, nuzzling at her long neck, brushing her long auburn hair out of the way. She melted into his kisses, his caresses. Turning around to face him, she completed unhooking her bra and let it, and the dress, fall to the floor.

They made their way to the settee, leaving a trail of his clothes, her thong, along the way. Things progressed as they had before: just before she climaxed, the door to the suite was kicked in. Her fiancee was there, gun in hand, fury in his eyes. He glared daggers at his best friend, the woman he had loved, and after only a moment barreled into the room.

A shot was fired. Madelaine ran, snatching up the man’s shirt off the floor. She ran, the noise of the fighting propelled her. Another gunshot echoed, the noise amplified in the empty hallway, the staircase she fled up towards the ballroom.

She was winded, scared out of her being, but she had enough sense to try to find a place to hide. The lights in the room were off, but the star and moonlight lit up the room in a stark searchlight. Patches of shadows broke up the natural glow; she dove for the largest area in shadow. The far corner.

Madelaine smelled the smoke as it wafted up the main staircase. Her fiancee had started the fire in the Bridal Suite after he killed her sometimes lover. He had raced up the steps to find her, pointing the gun at her, threatening to kill her, then him. She, clad only in a shirt, had rushed him in her fear and anger at what he had done…what she had done. She pushed him, hard. Clutching her arm, they both tumbled down the staircase towards the growing blaze below.

But he had broken his neck, and she escaped down the second stairway down the hall. She gave no reason why two bodies, why the gunshots, how the fire began. Everyone consoled her, but they knew. They knew. Many let her know by their distance, their silence.

This time, though, hiding in the shadow, her fiancee did not appear at the top of the stairs, did not overwhelm in the doorway to the ballroom. The fire crept in his place, the room getting smokier and hotter. Madelaine began to cough. She stood, watching the flames leap up the stairs in the short distance, traveling along furniture, material, walls, ceiling, carpeting. The way she had originally survived was a furnace, now.

Madelaine began coughing deeper, more painfully. She was just leaving the once shadowed corner when a pair of hands grabbed her from behind. She yelped as the fingers dug into her arms, her breasts. Hot air ran up and down her neck, onto her shoulders, and she was forcibly turned around, the shirt torn off and tossed to the floor.

The Unfolding Doll held her with the inferno of the ballroom surrounding them. The doll, with her dark ringlet hair, button eyes, stitched linen hands, arms, and legs; behind Madelaine’s back, if she would have been in front of the three-way bridal mirror, would have seen the long, sharp blade that was reflecting the dancing flames of the room.

Madeline, tear-streaked face, coughing lungs, was guided around the ballroom dance floor by the Unfolding Doll. Try as she might, and she had little left inside of her, Madelaine could not break free of the doll’s leading steps.

She realized, as the slicing pain that she began to feel in her back, this…this was their first dance.

And it was her last.

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The AtoZ Blog Challenge

During the month of April, 2018, the challenge requires that we write 26 posts, starting with the letter A on April 1st (yes, it’s not an April Fool’s Day joke) and ending with Z on Monday, April 30th. A week or so later, there will be a reflection post that will wrap up this experience, for me as well as my readers.

*I’ve decided to reblog past Abysmal Dollhouse stories on Sundays since we’re not required to write those days. The reblog will not correspond to any specific letter. Just thought you might enjoy some of the previous entries that I’m fond of.

The Banff Springs Hotel can be found in Alberta, Canada. There are a few stories of ghost attributed to the location, but the one that caught my imagination was the Bride on Fire, who can sometimes be found in the ballroom, dancing. From that, I came up with the above. This is a work of fiction, and I took fiction writing liberties with all of it but the ghost rumor: I have no idea if there was a fire in the Painter Tower, I have no clue where the ballroom, bridal suite(s), or anything else is in the place. As to the Bride on Fire, this is as good a reason as any for her story.

Until she tells me otherwise during our dance.

Stuck in L

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My love life has been surrounded by women whose names started with the letter L. Yes, there have been other alphabetical choices, but L’s seem to prevail. There’s been Lynette, Leslie, Laura, Lucy, Lisa, Lori, Lindsey, Linda, and even a Lola. I know I’m a man; Lola wasn’t. Boy, she wasn’t. I’m sure there were a few others who I’ve simply forgotten, but in the end, I’ve had my fair share of L. No matter. None of them ever prepared me for Lili. I can’t even begin…well, not true. How do I skirt around a cliche? My life has never been the same since I met Lili.

I was on my bike, a Yamaha YZF-R6 that I called Yaz, going home after an uninspired date. Not an L, that I know. It was two in the morning, and the Merritt Parkway was almost car free. I was going fast, keeping an eye out for speed traps; I knew where most of them were, traveling this road so often in my life. It was cop free that night. Connecticut sleeps, unlike New York. I revved Yaz up to the century mark. We whizzed along the road, passing trees and the few cars on the parkway. This more than made up for a so so date.

Until I noticed headlights in my mirror that were getting closer. Thinking COP, I slowed down, knowing it would not be enough to avoid a ticket. But, no flashing lights. No megaphone voice telling me to pull over. The lights were catching up to me, low to the ground, and then it passed me on the left. As it pulled ahead I noticed a very quick two blinks of the brake lights. The car sped ahead, slowed a bit, two quick bursts of brake lights, then speeding on. I took the hint.

We played taking lead, overpowering the other, back and forth, for miles. The car was in the lead when a new light appeared, the right blinker. The last gas station/rest area was coming up, the one that’s just before the NYS border. I clutched and braked Yaz down and followed the car to the parking area.

It pulled into the spot furthest away from the station/mini mart. I parked right next to the car I’d been having fun with, giving out a little happy gasp as I took my helmet off. Didn’t need one in CT, but I was heading to NY. The car was gorgeous: a bright yellow Lotus Evora 400. A car I’ve been drooling over. Well, one of them. We were at too high a speed for me to notice anything really more than the color, but now…

But now the driver door opened. The gasp I had for the car was amplified by the woman that stepped out. Long black hair ran down and over her shoulders was the first thing I noticed. Then the smile. It radiated a lot of things; well, in my mind, and other parts, it did. She was wearing sunglasses (2:00 am, remember) that only accented how beautiful she was, eyes or not. Black buttoned down shirt was equally unbuttoned as buttoned, and painted on looking black jeans. Boots. Goth to the extreme, but she wore it better than well.

She leaned against her car and beckoned me over. Beckoned. I’d never been beckoned like this before. We exchanged names, admired each other’s driving, me admiring a whole lot more. Lili? I’m not a mind reader, but if you judge by where we went from there, she was doing the same. Talking turned to kissing, kissing turned to other things. We were both sweaty and smiling when Lili got a serious angry face going.

“Davey, this has been lovely, but you need to get out of here. Now.”

Rude shock, but there was something in her voice that was more urgent than anything else. I backed away, adjusting my clothing, trying to adjust the very mixed feelings I was having.

“Now, Davey. Now!”

Helmet in hand, I watched her as she opened her car door. That was as far as she got before a really terrifying animal growl sounded. That was followed by the biggest, meanest looking dog I’d ever seen. Then, another one. They came out of the wooded area behind the station and lopped rather quickly towards us. I wasn’t watching Lili at the moment as one of those things came towards me.

It leapt over the Lili’s car and came right at me. Only thing I could think of was hitting it in the head with my helmet. A quick not-even-a-yelp came out, and then a very angry snarl was directed at me as it landed behind me. I was at a loss as to what to do. Bike was off and cold, I had no weapons beyond my helmet. I turned slightly to see what was happening with Lili.

What was more surprising? These two beasts coming at us, or seeing Lili holding off the one, her hands on both parts of its jaws, pulling them further and further apart. Just as I heard a squeal coming from her beast, mine decided I was game, fair or not.

The blow to my back knocked me down and almost out. I rolled over onto my back and shoved my helmet into it’s maw as it came for my face. Believe me, having a death grip on that helmet saved my lift. Jamming the piece further into the mutts’ mouth, I did the only thing I could think of: try to Mountain it.

Just saw the episode of Game of Thrones where the Mountain killed his opponent by squeezing a guys head real hard, pushing his thumbs into the eyes. Gore and victory ensured on the show, so…why not? Reaching up while the thing continued to chomp down on my helmet, I started to push as hard as I could once I had my hands in the right position.

It wasn’t easy, by no stretch of the imagination. I was hurting the thing, but I wasn’t winning. Victory was definitely not ensured. I head the helmet crack, gave a big prayer, dug in harder…and then poof.

Nothing. Nada. Zilch.

Except, Lili was standing over me, holding a very wicked looking knife like thing that glittered. She held out her hand and helped me up. Lili gave me a once over, running her hands over me, kinda like she had before the attack, but in no way sensual. I felt OK after that, but also weak once the adrenaline rush wore off. I was just about to ask her what was going on, when another growly voice sounded, this one not from an animal.

“Mother, congratulations.” Which did not sound congratulatory in the least.

“Buzz off, B,” Lili said, still checking me out. “I’m very, very sick and tired of this game you insist on playing”

“It’s not a game, Mother, and you know that. One day, and soon, you will pay for your insults.”

Lili just smiled, waved her hand in the air above her floating hair. Yes, floating hair. No wind. Floating. But it fell down, cascading over her shoulders again. I could sense that whatever had been there wasn’t here now.

Before I could ask any “What? Huh? Who? What?”, Lili put her hand on my chest and closed her eyes. I felt a bit of a tremble inside, something clicked, and, well, things were different.

Lili got into her Lotus; I got onto my Yamaha. She pulled out of the lot, and I followed her. As I continue to do.

This was how I met and became involved with Lili.

Lilith.

Mother of Demons.

***********************

Author’s Note:

So, hi. A to Z Blog challenge is over two weeks ago. I needed a bit of a mental break. I kept getting messages to write more, continue more Rovas & Berrak, but…not right now.

I plan to do a bit more with Lili and Davey. Let me know what you think