Tag Archives: Horror

Silence, Leading To…

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For fear

Aspects of  horror to hear

Words that one refuses oneself

Does not still the malignancy that eats away

eats away

eats

Until what is left is nothing.

For fear

Leading to silence

Leaping from silence

Causes a deepening hole

That can’t be crawled out of.

Silence, Leading To

Leading

To

A hole.

No one else can listen to that silence

They can infer

Observe

Walk away

Brush off

But, the silence widens

engulfs

implodes

Leading to…

Thirty Miles

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No matter what you want
Where to go
Where to rest
It’s thirty miles
That never ends.
 
The fog lays across
Even the brightest day
Obscuring the sights
All one, in the end,
All one.
Thirty miles still to go
Thirty miles
 
So why not stay where the tension lies?
The shouting barked at your back
Not respected nor needs met
With distressing sharp looks
With no one listening
With only loud, loud, loud
 
Yet you laugh
She laughs
At what is wrought;
Shake your head at some distant thought
The cut off point has come and gone
Thirty miles shouldn’t take so long.
 
Thirty miles to drive you on
Another thirty after that
Driven on, driven on
Thirty miles of fog

Nyctophilia: #defythedark contest

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Well, I’ve been away for over a month. During that time, I’ve started writing a number of things, but all of it was working towards story ideas I’ve had rolling around for a bit. All of them are in different stages…and almost every piece is for a future novel, or novella. Hence, not for Tale Spinning.

My SO brought a Figment contest to my attention that actually intrigued the two of us: the Defy the Dark New Author Contest. I had given up on submitting anything to Figment because of the usual  “heart (like) my story & I’ll like yours” mentality, which rarely ever translated into the merit of the story. Yes, I did that last year with Birdsongs: The Virtuous War. I learned my lesson and stayed clear of that type of “whoring” for votes.

What’s different about Defy the Dark New Author Contest? The likes/hearts don’t mean a thing: there is an actual YA editor (Ms. Saundra Mitchell)  who will read and judge the work on its merits. This is for eventual publication in an anthology by HarperCollins. Combined, the two things got me writing a just under 4,000 word short story entitled Nyctophilia.

FYI: Nyctophilia, as defined by Dictionary.com, is: a love or preference for night, darkness.

My description/”blurb”:

On the coast of the British Isles lies beautiful Bournemouth. At the turn of the 20th Century, it is a quiet, peaceful destination. A retired London Chief Inspector makes his home there with his wife, their house cared for by a local towns girl, Miranda. By day, most agree that the views of Bournemouth are spectacular. By night, the Spectacular views Bournemouth in an unsavory way…an old “friend” of the inspector comes to visit, and he  very much prefers all that the night has to offer.

Please CLICK HERE to take you to my newest story, Nyctophilia. If you with to leave comments, you can do so either at Figment or here on Tale Spinning.

Lisa Vooght entered the same contest with an extremely compelling tale called Rain’s Gonna Come.  Very powerful, a story you will be glad you read.

Thanks one and all for sticking with Tale Spinning. I hope I’m not gone another month before posting something new.

Overlooking The Past By The Sea

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Read Right! What you know! for what this story alludes to…or not.

Emma stood in the doorway of the kitchen, wringing her hands in silence. Frederick had been in such a state that she had not witnessed in years, ever since that note was found slipped under their front door. She was the one who found it, and as she held the sealed envelope addressed to Inspector Abberline it took all of her resolve to just tear it to bits and toss it into the kitchen fires.  Emma was dreadfully sorry she had not done so.

Her husband stood by the bay window, right hand raised, holding himself upright and away from the glass planes. His left hand was behind him, and in it he clutched the letter he would not let her read. His mood was betrayed by his stance: taut, tense, and far, far away in thought. Emma had seen Frederick like this all too often, in London, in the days of the Ripper. Try as she would, he wound up sharing nothing with her, placating her with gentle brush offs that “…nothing was wrong, nothing to worry about…what’s that delicious smell, dear?”

The papers told her all that her husband as Inspector did not relate. It was all a gruesome, horrible business, and Emma had thought they were both done with it after leaving Scotland Yard,  London,  and the Pinkertons behind.

“Frederick, dinner is getting cold. Please, dear,” she entreated, only to be met with silence.

She approached him, sitting on the window seat, trying to take his left hand in hers. Shifting slightly but not looking at her, Frederick tucked the letter into his jacket pocket and placed his hand in hers. Even with the fireplace roaring his hand was cold to her touch. She placed it on her cheek to it and rubbed it to warm him, as best she could.

Evening was upon them and Frederick finally settled down. His sleep, when it came, was marred by tics and pulling the sheets out and winding them about him. Emma was awake through all this. “This was how he was like during the worst of it,” she thought, “and I can’t let him go through this again.”

She crept out of bed, found his jacket, and took the letter out of the pocket. Walking into the front room, the embers in the fireplace were playing off the last of their heat. They were also still hot enough to reduce the letter to cinders. She knew he would be upset, and a week would be full of awful silent recriminations, but she also knew it would pass.

Emma stopped at the bay window. By moonlight and reflected fog she saw a figure, shadowed, standing up the slope, by the copse of trees that separated their land from the neighbors. She saw nothing but the shadow, but she knew it was a he, and she knew he was staring at the house, at her.  A cane was in his left hand, and a gentleman’s top hat sat upon the figure.

Emma held her breath to the point of hard labor. Sweat drenched her where she stood, and stand fast she did for she was unable to move. They remained that still, together, until the tip hat was doffed in her direction followed by a slight bow.

Hat back in place, the cane slashed from left to right. Noticing only those movements, Emma did not see the figure fade into the night.

Frederick found her lying on the floor by the window in the morning. She was so chilled that he called for the doctor; he remained at her side, ministrating to her needs for the rest of that day. No mention was made of the missing letter, nor did he press for what disturbed her so.

That evening, at the Black Dog Inn, a stranger bought the locals a round. They cheered, swarmed around the bartender, and forgot all about him as they drank to his health. A working girl was appraising him as she drank her pint of bitters, her eyes smiling in his direction.

“Cheers,” he said to her, and then he tilted back his Black and Tan and drank heartily.

Right! What you know!

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My Dear Inspector Abberline,

I forward to you this, in abstentia, my congratulations and best wishes on your retirement from the infamous Pinkerton National Detective Agency. You have had my utmost admiration for your tenacity and perseverance, and while you did not reap the true reward you sought for for so very long, I hope you do take some consolation that I stopped way before you did.

As far as you know.

This missive is a parting gift, if you might take it as such, as you retire to chilly Bournemouth with that delectable Mrs. of yours, the former Emma Beaument. It is a pity that she and I never met, but, really, she and I would never have had the opportunity to cross paths. Straight and narrow, inspector…straight and narrow.

How fitting that my “final” prize, Mary Jane Kelly, for “Fair Emma” was indeed worthy of my skills. Inspector, she was a beauty, and fallen as she was, it was a pleasure to make her acquaintance. Mary was tall, slim, fair, of fresh complexion, and of attractive appearance, but…you only met her after my work was done. I doubt you found her very appealing once you came upon her, prone and vivisected as she was, but trust me, Frederick (I do hope you don’t mind I call you that), she was very attractive.

Very attractive indeed.

How puzzling the insides of a woman are, the extra parts, the bits and pieces that make up the female form. I hope you appreciated the aesthetics of the beauty I left,   the abdominal cavity emptied of its viscera, the displacing of the bosoms, the flaying and intricate incisions that transformed “Fair Emma” into a work of art…a work of art I left for you and the stalwarts of Scotland Yard.

All these years later, the cases still open, and you now in retirement…are you still pondering why? I know you think you know the who. It wasn’t poor mad Georgie, I’m sure you realize now. Yes, he did poison those young ladies (of which you only pinpointed three; he had a much higher count) and paid for his “crimes.” Not mine, Frederick, not mine.

Why? I must admit, I loved them all, in my own way. Especially Mary. I keep her heart with me, always.

There were others before, and many, many after those attributed to me. Each throat cut, ever organ removed, every slice given live with me even now, Frederick, and while you wile away your time by the sea shore, think on this:

You were never, ever close in catching me. Pity. It was fun.

Hug your Emma, Frederick, but never worry, for she is as safe from my knife as the purest child in the church of the lord our God. Love her, as I love mine. I shall be enjoying the rewards of my memories, and those that I still come to know.

With fond regards,

“Jack”

Impressions of Perfect Fifths

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Marc Chagall

His hands played along the surface of the violin, tracing the patterns worn into the wood. Slight depressions,  imprintings of someone’s fingering, their palm, chin, sweat. Empty of catgut, Avram, the luthier, caressed and stroked the violin that was given unto his care for restoration. He closed his eyes, held the violin to his nose, and breathed in its history.

The drawing of the horsehair bow that had slid along the strings left intermittent grooves in the wood. They showed where a well loved piece was played,  how the violinist drew against the grain of the violin itself. Clumsy or a style, it was all the same to Avram: this was a well loved instrument, that was apparent, and it would become one again.

He noticed the nicks, the dimples in the varnish, the grain of the wood, the stains not readily perceived, but there. There was a very slight crack near the base of the right F-hole, the chinrest needing to be replaced, a refastening of the tailpiece and scroll. Sitting on his wooden stool, Avram kept the violin out of direct sunlight, a strain for his eyes but a blessing for the instrument.

The tuning pegs were worn down, without sheen. Avram could tell that the strings had been replaced, often, their lifespan given to the music: either no longer playing true, losing the desired tone, or snapping in the frenzy of the player.  That did not matter to Avram. He would eventually make a new marriage, adding the G first, then the D, followed by the A and E. He would attach them at the base, up the bridge, along the neck and finally connect them all to the pegbox. All would then be tuned, in harmony, restored.

This though, was still a ways to come. All in due time…

Eventually, time for music to be lifted out and carried, vibrating its musical message to others. Time for this violin to find new hands, a new lover, to be held towards and against the player, to communicate and be in tune once again.

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Author’s Note:

I was given a newspaper article by my SO about Violins of Hope, a project of restored violins that had a history of pain: they came from musicians who “experienced” the horrors of the Holocaust. There was a concert in Charlotte, NC in April 2012. The violins are now back in Israel.

This immediately got my writing gears in motion: I have plotted out titles of chapters, an outline, for what I will be working on next. I plan to get a first draft done of all this while it is still “hot” for me; then, in June, I’ll put this aside and start working on the second draft of the Swan Rise stories.

This was just to whet your whistle. I will NOT be posting any of my Violin stories on Tale Spinning after this: I want it to be marketable for an agent/publisher, if worthy. I WILL be looking for readers along the way, to form a small core group, maybe our own writers group, so if you’re interested, please EMAIL me (please don’t post it here: my email can be located on the right sidebar).

As to Tale Spinning: I’ll be dropping some pieces here and there throughout May, as the story comes to me or I find a fun prompt that inspires. Please check out my backlog of past pieces; there is a lot here, and if you’re new, well…then they’ll be new to you as well.

Remember: comments are always welcome.

Xanthippe (#AtoZChallenge)

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Welcome to the A to Z Challenge : 26 Stories during the month of April

Welcome to… The Apartment Building: Swan Rise

(For Links to the previous stories, CLICK HERE

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“This is what I can tell you, Detectives. First, she was poisoned. The effects were wearing off and are definitely older than the bludgeoning. The victim was stabbed next, twice in the abdomen, the softer tissue. From the blue tint of her lips, she was still alive when her pillow was finally used for suffocation. Someone wanted this woman dead.”

Detectives Dibny and Wayne,  investigating Doris Bertram’s murder, looked at each other. Dibny wanted to say that this was just overkill, but the look on Wayne’s face held him back. They thanked the forensics doc and headed upstairs to their desks: Wayne to look over the notes he’d already gone over a close to a dozen times that day alone; Dibny to find out what his wife packed him for lunch.

The notes were the same each time Wayne looked: no forced entry; door found ajar; fire escape gate was unlocked and wide open; a variety of fingerprints from tenants and family here and there (not a compulsive cleaner, which Wayne cursed at: it only added to his headache); women’s footprints in the blood of the victim-same size as the victim, and about fifteen others in the building, as well as her youngest daughter; no blood splatter to be found on any clothing; no prints on either murder weapon used-wiped clean; no fibers found; etc. etc. etc….

…that all led to a great big pile of nada. The detective threw the folder together, dumped it on the corner of his desk, and went out for lunch.

This was one case he never got to close. Retired now, it bothered him occasionally, especially when he reminisced while visiting Dibny’s grave.

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Doris Bertram, late of Swan Rise Apartments, ex-president of the Tenants Association, was mourned by her two grown children (the oldest more then the younger, truth be told) and an assortment of friends and neighbors. Two people in the building were glad she was gone; one of the two not happy about the method, but in the long run, happy nonetheless.

Patty smiled a lot in the days after Doris was found. Being reinstated as president only matched her glee. In the end, she just found this exciting, and wound up using it to push through a lot of “extras” for the building. Each change she sought and won was a victory for her, and Doris’ murder helped her achieve more than she had previously. When she went out (without Mrs. Beatty), which she did often, she’d offer a silent toast to Doris, not in good wishes at all.

Mrs. Beatty was saddened by the murder, and made more fearful. Since her husband had died, she grew more and more afraid, and this was the “straw that broke the cake” (she could never remember adages as they were supposed to be).  She had thought someone had been in her apartment: some clothing was missing, as well as the embroidered handkerchief that David had made for her. Now she was sure of it, and after the meeting she needed extra fortification, visiting the Frolicking Lamb and then making arrangements to have heavy duty dead bolts put on her door and to replace the two door locks she already had.

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Dragana had replaced her husbands keys exactly where he left them, exactly where he had left them every night since they had moved in and he took “this stinking job.” He was snoring away as usual, beer vapors expelled with each “sqoink” he made. She stood over him, the dim shine of the moon and street and parking lot lights illuminating him through the slats of the window blinds. The shadows sliced him into pieces, and Dragana wished she hated him more than she loved him or needed him.

In the morning, the building was abuzz with Mrs. Beatty’s finding a door ajar, and then finding the dead Doris. Andres was put off balance, and he glanced at his wife out of the corner of his eye throughout the day. She ordered him out of her hair, doing more odd jobs for her this day than normal, and he did it with tail between his legs. She batted the cigar out of his mouth, stomped on it, and for once he just turned and walked away.

“Sleep with MY husband? You bitch!” ran through Dragana’s mind, taking away the small satisfied smile that occasionally crept onto her face. Patty came out of the elevator at one point and saw the change in Dragana’s face. Their eyes locked, and Patty was the one to break contact this time. She also stayed out of Andre’s way after this, not really knowing why but knowing it was the smart thing to do.

Dragana sat in her overstuffed chair, watching the shopping network, ordering a few things she did not need. She waited the day to see if she had made any mistakes, but the detectives only questioned her about seeing anyone hanging around the building who should not be there and if she knew anyone who had a grudge against “the victim.” Dragana brought up the prostitute that had been seen in the lot that the police did nothing about, and that Patty hated her and Mrs. Beatty was her stooge in all things.

She had planned this for awhile, finding out about her bastard husband and “that bitch” by overhearing some of the gossip from the Laundry Room Mafia. They “shushed” when they did find her listening, but it had been too late.

She had gone on an out of state shopping trip, buying a skin tight full body cat suit (cash). On the same trip, she stopped at a surgical supply store and purchased a number of items that she did not need and three that she did: sterile gloves and covering for her head/hair and shoes.  Later that night she saw Mrs. Beatty and Patty leave; she “borrowed” the building keys, went into Mrs. Beatty’s apartment, and since they were just about the same size, took shoes, a pair of pants, a blouse, and at the last minute, the embroidered handkerchief. Patty was larger than Dragana, and as much as she hoped to pin this on her, it would not have been smart.

Andres had come in, smelling of sex, but went and took a shower before she had a chance to accuse him. He drank three beers and went to sleep, dead to the world. Dragana put on the cat suit and then put Mrs. Beatty’s clothes on over that. Going up the stairway, she waited at the top landing until all the dog walkers were in for the night. She put the surgical items on, took out the master set of keys, and opened Doris’s door…for the second time that day.

Earlier in the day she had been inside,  when Doris was “entertaining” her husband in his workshop. She had put some rat poison in some of the open beverage containers in the fridge. Enough to get her sick and woozy; not enough, she hoped, to kill her, yet.

Doris was staggering, hand on her stomach, and fell to her knees. She clutched herself, thinking she had food poisoning, and groaning so much she did not hear Dragana unlock the door, enter and close it behind her. She opened her eyes in time to see the Buddha being lifted, then swung towards her head.

Dragana had blood on her, but the energy she used to lift the heavy statue, and the jitters she felt, drained her from using it a second time. A second time she needed, obviously to her, as Doris was still alive. Dragana went into the kitchen and took a knife out of the teak block on the counter. Straddling over her, Dragana plunged the knife into her stomach twice. The blood spray sickened her, but still Doris would not die.

Reaching over to the couch, Dragana took one of the chintz pillows and put it over the pleading lips she hated so much. It didn’t take much pressure (Dragana was not doing well herself) to push the pillow down. Finally…finally, Doris was gone.

Dragana stood up, stepped in the blood, and walked over to the window in the living room that had the fire escape. She opened the window and the grate that Doris never locked, and climbed out. She almost cried out when she saw a figure below her: “that idiot Weather Man!” but she stood stock still. It was then she also noticed the bloody footprints. She took off the shoe covering and carefully reentered the apartment, leaving the window and gate wide open.

Making her way far around the body, Dragana opened the front door and crept out, leaving it ajar so as not to make any more noise then was needed. She went down the stairs to the basement and took off all of Mrs. Beatty’s clothes. Using her husband’s keys, she opened the elevator door (the elevator was on the 4th floor and had been for awhile) and went down the rungs to the shaft’s floor.

There was the black plastic bag she had left earlier. Using Mrs. Beatty’s handkerchief, she wiped off as much blood as she could, trying to make sure nothing would leak onto her when she undressed. All of the purloined materials went into the bag; the bag went underneath the oily trash her husband was supposed to clean up, but never did (and never would).  She set fire to the surgical items, a rotten burning smell that just intermingled with the garbage, and scattered the melted pieces around the base.

Cat suited, she made her way quickly to her apartment, removed it and wadded it into a ball, tossing it to the back of her walk-in closet that was already brimming with clothing.

Naked, she sat on the edge of her bed and shook.

Children In The Hall (A to Z Challenge)

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Welcome to the third of twenty six stories during the month of April

Welcome to The Apartment Building

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From elevator to the apartment door you must run the gamut of an interior passage, the hallway; every building has them.  It’s not a living space; it is a vacant area that leads you, sending you in directions. It has no other purpose but to move you along to your destination, or away from it.  While you travel layouts in buildings you know-apartment, business or otherwise- understand that the Swan Rise Apartments has a straight corridor that connects both wings of the building, with an inverted L shape at each end for an apartment-like cul-de-sac.  Un-imaginative or just practical, it serves its purpose.

The hallways are busiest in the weekday mornings. The early to work risers lead the way, followed by those off to school and the just-making-it-to-work on timers. Things quiet down until the Laundry Room Mafia takes over. They wheel their creaking carts along the tiled floors, making that “bumpity-bumpity-barump” cascade of sound that lies flat all around until they reach their destination.

It’s quiet then. The hallway is like a no-mans land, lone figures furtively moving along from apartment to elevator, elevator to apartment, a few venturing out to toss the trash down the chute, then return to their abodes to lock themselves in again. These are the At Homes, and their number grows as the building also gets older.

Once

Swan Rise used to be a mecca of a different kind. They’re mostly grown up now, surly distant teens, or the families have moved out along the way, or they’ve left the building and their families behind. Most of their visits are few are far between, if they come back at all.

The hallways used to reverbrate with the sound of children on every floor.

Every floor.

Mr. Bob Fields misses the days the building was full of kids and young families. He misses his own. There was  life, a vibrancy, a different feel to the place.  The smells of holiday cooking still ramble along the breadth of each floor, but the laughter…

The laughter was often missing.

In it’s place was a plethora of barks and yaps from the yappy little apartment dogs. They took the place of children, solace for the empty nesters but not for those who felt a dog was not a little white floor mop that had to prove its power in its constant barking.

It was that dissonace that greeted Bob when he stepped off the elevator, made a right,  and headed down to his place. He swung his keys around, having to readjust the numerous bags he was carrying. His wife always asked him why he didn’t take the shopping cart. “I forgot” was his usual answer. She gave him a silent scolding, which was her usual response.

Putting the plastic bags down on the table, he removed his jacket and went to work. Scissor snipping, sorting, dividing into exact amounts, then filling up his baggies and putting them all in a row, Bob was satisfied. Now, he just had to wait.

It was getting towards dusk, and there was a mood change in the building. Everyone knew it, waited for it, anticipated it. Not everyone relished it. They hid inside their holes, sequestered, wishing nights like this would just go away.

Not Bob. He relished it, longed for it, desired it to be more often. It was a night of devilment that he always loved, and while Beth, his wife, would have none of it, Bob lived for times like this.

There. There it was. A noise in the hallway, at the other end.

He got ready. Walking towards the front door, Bob turned off switch after switch until the front of the apartment was in darkness. A glow that could only be described as eerie was eminating from a lone candle that was  flickering (like Bob’s anticipation?) was the only source of light now.

Bob waited.

Closer. The sounds were getting closer. He could hear rustling sounds, shhhh’s going around, some low muffled grumblings, then…his doorbell rang.

Shouts went out:

“Trick or Treat!”

Bob flung the door open wide. This year he decided on puppets instead of a costume. He had a witch, fortune teller and  wizard hand/rod puppets ready for the evening. This first Trick or Treat of the night was special:  a large hairy blue monster, reminding him of Grover, but that was lost on these kids, he was sure.

“What you want?” the Blue Monster growled out. “Trick…or treat?”

Twelve in all; a good first gambit, Bob thought.

“Trick!” they yelled, both children and adults.

“OK…Bye Bye!” and Bob (as Blue Monster) slammed the door shut.

The parents laughed, as did their children. As did Bob, and Beth, who had inched her way up to the door to see the little ones in their costumes. She touched his shoulder and gave it a squeeze.

Opening the door, every face that was not masked was alit with a smile. The eyes through the masks glinted as well. Halloween bags of goodies were handed out, thank you’s were said, and the troop went on to their next victims, as Bob closed the door.

Beth said: “Can I do the next group?”

Blue Monster gave her a pat on her behind, making his way to the kitchen to make them both a cup of tea.

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Velocity

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Jim made a right turn at a red light, at a corner with two signs saying “No Turn On Red.” His tires left tread as he barreled through the intersection. No cops, just a couple of honkers annoying him.  The Beamer behind him was blistering the air with a staccato of horn blasts. Jim just gave him the finger and sped up, passing through the next light before it turned.

Previously, he had outraced four Yellow “Go Faster!” lights, blew through five Stop signs, crossed over the double yellow lines (to get around the “old farts”) three times, and came close to hitting two cars, and one woman with a stroller crossing in the crosswalk (who had the right of way, but Jim didn’t see it that way at all: he ignored anything that even hinted at “right of way” rules, as his was the only right of way he believed in).

His H3 Alpha had two and a half tons of pure motion in his hands and under his feet; a weapon of the streets, and he aimed to drive as if Hell was on his tail.

He was partly right.

After more almost mishaps, Jim made it home from his beer run. Braking hard, he careened into his spot, barely missing the cars parked parallel to his. He slammed the driver’s door shut. With six pack in hand, he sauntered across the parking lot to the apartment building. Banging open the door, he was confronted with the angry glares of the daily laundering ladies, sorting their whites and colors and silently condemning him for his loud music, his caps on backwards, his wife beater Tees, and his baggy drooping pants.

Jim sneered a Hello to them, walked down the hallway, and danced onto the elevator, which luckily for all was waiting to take him up to the seventh floor.

Unlocking his door, Jim stopped in his tracks. Envelopes were strewn all over the foyer floor. Cursing, Jim kicked the door closed, went to the kitchen and put a six pack in the fridge. He cracked one open, and while swigging it down he went back to get the “under the door garbage.”

Expecting menus or advertisements, he opened one and found a traffic ticket: $150.00 fine for going through “No Turn On Red” signs. There were pictures on the page, clear and damning, of his car, his license plate, him behind the wheel. Shouting out expletives that were heard by the neighbors, Jim picked up the rest and headed to the kitchenette table.

Thirteen more envelopes later, Jim had a stack of traffic tickets in front of him. All had high fines, all had shots of him supporting the fines. He stared at the pile, growling as he set tightly gripping the bottle of cheap lager. He looked them over one more time, then tore each one in half. Crumpling them up one by one, he tossed them into the trash. Out of character for Jim, he took this garbage pail, only half full, not overflowing,  out to the trash chute at the end of the hall. He stomped back to his studio apartment, slammed the door, locked it, and went off to polish off the five remaining bottles in the fridge.

The next morning Jim found fourteen more traffic tickets on the floor by his front door. All the fines were doubled, in large red letters. Again, Jim tore them all up. On his way out, he met the super and complained about someone getting into the building, leaving things under his door. The super waved him on while he continued to mop, having something to gossip about later with his cronies in the building.

Jim’s traffic transgressions were doubled this day, anger seeping out of every pore. When he got home from work, he was greeted by forty-two envelopes, all splayed out on the floor. He tore into them as he threw off his faux leather jacket, opening the refrigerator for the first of cold brews (having replaced the empty six pack with a fresh one in the morning).  Plopping down in his La-Z-Boy, Jim opened, read, and then tore up all the violation warnings. He threw them into the waste basket next to his chair, most of the pieces winding up on the floor. They stayed there.

Waking up from an hour and twenty minute nap, Jim though he had heard a noise by his front door. Getting up to check, he saw more white rectangles littering his floor. Jim ran over, unlocking the door and yanking it open. No one was near his apartment. He ran to the elevator, which was stopped on the floor above, then checked the stairway. Mrs. Elway, widow, garbage bag in hand, saw Jim in his frantic ways, had been going to the chute to dispose her daily waste. She quickly waddled back inside her apartment, locking it, to wait out Jim.

Once back inside, he ripped open the flaps. All the fines were doubled again. The bright red “Warning: Do Not Disregard or Tear Up These Notices” was stamped on every single one of the sheets, top, bottom and the back. Jim wanted to shred them all. They sat in a pile on the table, in place of where he’d eat.

The next morning, another round appeared. Jim called in sick (his boss not believing him and started the process of replacing Jim once they hung up) and waited until 9:00am to call the traffic division. He demanded to talk to whoever was harassing him in such a way. The phone receptionist, taking only so much bad language, disconnected him. And again, first apologizing for being disconnected. Jim called a few more times, finally realizing he was going to get no where.

His drive to the traffic court was sedate, for Jim. Only three infractions, but they grew after Jim spent two and half hours of hurling insults and almost getting arrested for his behavior. His drive home made the local evening news, as people were recounting the dangerous driver who tore through the city streets “like it was his own personal Daytona 500” (said one onlooker who said he barely got out of the way in time).

More envelopes. More doubled fines. More “Do Not…” warnings. Opening up the calculator app on his phone, Jim tallied a staggering amount of fines. His savings and checking account combined wouldn’t even make a dent in what this added up to be.

Jim put his head in his hands, closed his eyes, and tried to calm his racing heart. He heard a sliding sound, got up, and by his door was one envelope. He picked it up: white like the others, but it had stamped on the outside “Last Warning, Jim.” Looking through the peephole, the empty hallway loomed before him. One of the overhead lights went out while he was peeping.

Going to his once comfy chair, Jim plopped down, examining what he held before carefully opening it. The paper was slick and shiny,  coated so that there was a slight glare off the page, reflecting the now fading sunset. A definitive sum headed the ticket, with a list of all of his driving misdoings. Jim read them all, carefully, the bile in his stomach churning with each and every misdeed. This carried on onto the back of the “rap” sheet, ending in a list of terms. Two:

  1. Pay the full amount by 3:33 am (or)
  2. Surrender yourself for full punitive justice

Jim had to look up the word “punitive.” Looking up at the clock on the wall, he had just about ten hours to find the money, or…

Grabbing what he could, Jim tore through the building, out to the lot, and into his SUV. He hit the road, running, and made it to the highway. He drove for hours, going south, then south east, then north for a bit, taking one connective road after another. No plan, no destination, just driving.

3:10 am, and Jim found a Denny’s (it was always open).  Ordering a Grand Slamwich(r) and a cup of coffee, Jim settled back in his booth seat, staring at the clock on the wall. He was on his second cup of coffee and only two bites into his cold sandwich when 3:33 am came. He clutched the mug, not noticing it wasn’t burning his hands.

3:34 am.

3:40 am.

3:45 am, and nothing happened. Sighing, wiping the sweat off of his hands on the booth seat, Jim paid the check and went out to the parking lot.

Leaning against his ride was the biggest cop Jim had ever seen. All in blue, helmet on with faceplate down, his badge radiated golden light, pinned to a massive chest. Raising his right arm, the officer beckoned Jim to come over with one crooked finger. Seeing this, Jim turned and tried to bolt.

He couldn’t. Against his will, Jim turned and walked towards the figure swathed in dark blue. He was within a foot when Jim was spun around and hard, cold metal was clamped around his wrists. He was manhandled into the back of an official looking van, but it had no insignia that Jim could see. Before he could say a word, the van took off, tossing Jim headlong into a bench seat.

Finally getting his bearings, Jim was shoulder pushed into an open spot. He looked around: the van, larger looking on the inside, held a lot of others, both sexes, all ages…well, all above driving age (except for that one girl who looked like she was twelve). Jim tried to shout, to ask what was happening, but nothing came out. Some weakly smiled at him, the rest ignored him. He tried a few more times, but the only sound he heard was the whine of the wind as the van picked up speed as it sped off to it’s final destination.

In the morning at Denny’s, the day shift manager found Jim’s H3 in the parking lot, keys on the hood. “Not mine,” was the answer he got from all inside. The manager waited out his shift and then called for the SUV to be towed away. Two months later, the gas guzzler was police auctioned off. The funds helped, as there was a recent drop in speeding tickets.

 

Beginnings: The Abysmal Dollhouse

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The priest drove the blade deep into Amunet’s chest. The suddenness of the attack shocked her as much as the pain that followed it. This action was repeated by five other priests with all the house slaves in the Mastaba, the final resting place of her master. She saw the others die. This priest’s blade was not true, not penetrating her heart on the first strike. But still, it caused her impending death. The time she had left, though, was enough.

Amunet locked eyes with the priest, old and sand scarred. The pain she felt was mixed with hatred.  Amunet howled a curse as he pulled the knife out of her chest. The priest was  holding the blade’s handle, a tinge of fear on his face, then anger for not having struck a death blow.  Before he could react, Amunet grabbed the hilt, reversed it, and slashed the priest’s throat. In a gurgle, then a gush  he fell to the ground, dying at her feet.

Behind his corpse was a mantle, and the relics that were to be entombed alongside the dead. Amunet stumbled towards it, her life memories, short and brutal, unfolded as she bled out. She held onto the ceremonial knife.

First step: a different life, a different name. A Greek girl, blonde and often praised for her beautiful skin; kidnapped along the coastal shore of her village. Bound and bagged, dropped in a hold with other young girls.

Next step: stripped, passed around from pirate to pirate throughout the voyage. Beaten, starved, raped. Other captives died along the way. They were tossed over the side. She helped toss some over the side.

Fumble step: Only the beatings ended as they announced land in a few days. No scars, no marks on her beautiful skin. Fed more, and passed around even more.

Stopped, panting, holding onto the wound, blood seeping out between her fingers: Naked, auctioned off like cattle; poked, prodded, fondled, pried open. Bought by her “master”, not knowing the language, then. He took her that night, and nights after. Gave her her name. Amunet, the hidden one. Beatings, never at his hands, until she came into line. She was a novelty, with her skin, her coloring, and her master enjoyed sharing his treasure with others.

Two half steps closer: Watching him clutching his arm, then his chest. He tumbled off his chair in front of her and the other slaves. Only one slave moved to his side. Not her. Never her. She smiled.

Collapsing on the mantle: Amunet clutched the doll, the one to protect her “master” in his next life. It’s hair was of sun-baked clay strung on flax thread. The doll’s  body was of wood in the shape of a woman, symbols of fertility etched into it. She held the doll to her chest; she cursed the men who stole her, she cursed all those who used her, she sent out waves of anger and primal hatred. Her blood soaked into the wood carving, the flax thread, stained the sun-baked clay. Her battered life unfolded into the doll.

On her knees, grasping the doll, her head bent over it, laying her curse, she took the knife that she held and stabbed the doll.  Another priest came behind her and rammed his blade into her back. This priest’s blow was true. Amunet fell forward onto the doll.

Her spirit of rage became the doll. A knife became her weapon. She took others through the ages: just, unjust…it did not matter to The Unfolding Doll. For centuries, her revenge glistened on her knife’s edge over and over again.

She grew careless, once, and was trapped by a mage whose son she had taken. Too strong to be destroyed, he did what he could. Caught in his daughter’s room, he fought her and won, binding her spirit in the child’s dollhouse. The mage sold it to a very special shop. He knew he could not stop her completely, but limit the murderous spirit? That he could do.

Be careful when entering The Abysmal Dollhouse. There lies the hidden one, the Unfolding Doll.