Friday, February 11, 2022

2 Minutes. Go!

It was the smell that first put his hackles up. A pungent, sweet smell of rot and decay. It was faint at first, but his body knew that there was reason to be wary. His brain did not. It quickly grew stronger, and he found himself inhaling deeply, pulling the smell inside his head where he could tumble it and smooth the edges. But it wouldn't smooth. It grew more pungent and, gradually, he came to realize that something was drastically wrong. 

He was struck by an urge to turn around and head back to the cabin. Pretend he had never smelled it. Pretend he didn't care, that morbid curiosity didn't compel him to keep walking, keep sniffing. Some deeply buried part of his lizard brain was taking over. He could feel it happening. He wanted to rut the smell out. He wanted to roll in it until he was a part of it, and it was a part of him.

Still, beneath this curiosity there was a growing terror. He knew that whatever he found would demand action. There would be phone calls to make. The whole day would be burned into his memory. It would become something he dreamed about. Something that lived inside him. He wondered briefly if the smell itself would make him ill, corrupt him. Scramble the wires in him.

He was so focused on the smell, that he didn't hear the shuffling sounds - the reordering of dead leaves. It wasn't until a branch snapped that he realized he wasn't alone, and by then it was too late. He had time only to think, "I should have turned the fuck around and went back to the cabin." Then, there was a flash of pain, the sound of bone rending. 

And he became part of the smell. 


  1. Replies
    1. oooh, redrum. I like the slow build-up and the gradual tension and the painful realisation.

    2. I liked that I couldn't anticipate quite where this would end up. Tension builds well, and the interplay and contrast between his curiosity and apprehension is well done.

  2. Replies
    1. I love that you pull the reader in with the character. We don't have time to anticipate the action. We are in the moment and the suspense is explosive, because of that.

  3. He’d towered over her, when she was small. And when she was not so small. His shadow was long—how she’d notice that when they walked together on broken Greenpoint sidewalks on Sunday mornings, out to get bagels and cream cheese and lox so her mother could sleep late, maybe more cigars for him, the newspaper. Her small hand—had he ever held it, back then? She doesn’t remember the feel of it—so much lower than his to the ground.

    Now she feels like the giant, straight-backed in her best hat and suit and Cuban heels, too nervous to sit in the wooden chair in the visitor’s area. After what stretches on like a lifetime, one stomach-churning memory after another, twisted with the guilt for not having come sooner, the door opens. A sour-faced guard guides him forward, and her immediate reaction to the thinner, stoop-shouldered man is pity. As if both knew how much each would hate that—the feeling of pity and the shame of being perceived as pitiful.

    Bagman. Murderer.

    She wipes the expression from her face. He sets his jaw, stands taller, shoulders back—as if to say I am still your father after all, after everything, you must see I am worthy of respect, demanding of it—but as he sinks into the chair it seems as if he can’t keep up the charade and lets his body sag. Shoulders, jaw, eyes.

    Two syllables escape her throat, independent of thought, and—according to her mother—her first word. “Papa.” That first word had been joyful, or so goes the family myth, but now it aches. Now it softens her knees and she takes the seat across from him, perched on the very edge as if readying to flee.

    One side of his mouth forms a smile. At calling him Papa or at her fear, she can’t tell. “How ya doing, sunshine?” His voice is gravel, broken as those Greenpoint sidewalks.

    She has taken the train all the way from Los Angeles, switched at Grand Central for the Hudson Line up to Sing Sing, hours and days to reach him, time to think about what she’d say, why in the end she’d decided to make the journey, but after that one word nothing else comes but a weary sigh.

    “You visit your mother?” It sounds more like a command than a question. One big hairy index finger taps on the table. She imagines he wishes it was holding a cigar. She can’t meet his eyes. She shakes her head.

    “I don’t like thinking about her down there, all alone.”

    You should have thought about that before—

    “Promise me.”

    She studies the initials carved into the wooden table.

    “Hey. Sunshine.”

    She looks up.

    “Promise me. Look, what’s done is done here. But you owe her that.”

    Her eyes narrow. After how her mother treated her—

    He points straight at her chest. She flinches back.

    “First warning,” the guard barks.

    His mouth forms a flat smile. He leans forward, lowers his voice. “I know about the money she gave you. That she helped you leave. Leave us. You owe her at least that respect.”

    He knows. Her throat tightens.

    “Promise me,” he growls. Then softens, leans back. “Think about it, at least. While you happen to be on this side of the country.”

    She snaps to her feet at the sudden ugly twist in his words. “We’re done here,” she says to the guard, and walks out.

    1. So much shifting emotion, and you take the reader along for that ride. This begs to be part of something bigger, though it stands alone just fine.

    2. Darn you. I want more! I want to know her. I want to know what her mom did. I want to live in his head. I want!

  4. Heliosphere Heights

    A surveillance drone hovers above me. I brandish my broken brick, and it shies away, shutter-bombing me. It falls upward and returns to its low-level patrolling orbit, seeking out anyone else breaking curfew. I estimate I’ve five minutes before the punishment drone arrives, its armament bristling, a rash of angry sparks raging across its carapace. It’ll not hesitate or analyse before it strikes; it’ll lash out at anything and everything with an infra-red heat signature, quickly scouring the neighbourhood clean of everything with a pulse.

    It'll soon not be a good night for a rat of any kind to be surface side in this locale.

    I pitch my half brick at the community sign, finishing my handiwork. I knock out the ‘o’ in 'Heliosphere', having already disabled the ‘p’ which follows it, an earlier visit of mine fracturing its matrix to add in the spaces between the words I’ve been creating. I’d added a stripe of red paint too, my reinterpretation making the sign flash out, "Hell is here," for anyone coming out to see what I’d done - although that would probably better be another night after the punisher finishes off tonight’s heavy-handed disciplinarian role.

    A low rumbling begins, quiet at first but quickly ramping up to become a thunder that shakes the buildings, rearranging the rubble spread around their feet. I drop through the hatchway into the cellar runs and disappear, leaving any innocents still out in the night world to suffer for what I’d just done.

    A night in the life of a resistance rat is short of pleasures, but a bit of creative defacement will always bring a grin to my face.

    Although you’d not see it was there until after I’d pulled off my rubber Presidents’ mask, of course.

    1. I like the setup, the hellscape heliosphere, and I want to know more.

    2. I got giddy right along with your character. This is great!

  5. The visitors

    We sleep in other people’s beds,
    try on misshapen shoes,
    ill-fitting and wretched,
    wonder where the walls end
    and the outside creeps in.

    The silent visitor just looks,
    touches nothing, does not sit,
    leaves no fingerprints or dust,
    We’re not the type of intruder
    who eats up all the porridge.

    Our footprints don’t follow us,
    our shadows cast no echo.
    We are the silent visitors
    who neither beg nor borrow,
    just travelling through.

  6. Some haunting images here, and I love that last stanza.

    1. Haunting is right. "Our footprints don't follow us." That sends shivers down my spine. I would love toknow more about them.

  7. You don't understand. You think you do. You want to. think you want to. You want to want to. But what you don't know is that to really understand, you have to live in the abuse. It's a different abuse from that which comes from a lover. Parental abuse or neglect looks, feels, and smells different. Having said that, there are so many different ways parents can utterly fuck up their kids' worlds. Some of them don't even mean to do it.

    You can read those words, and feel then, but you still don't get it. She does. He does. They do. You don't. Thank God for that. Still, I sit here, knowing I'm not alone, but feeling very alone.

    There are days when I get to ask if I'm enough. Those are wonderful days. Most days I want to break my back to make sure you don't want to toss me out of your life. Then there are the times when I have to or choose to go out into the world and fear floods through me like the beer he chokes himself with every night. Still. Maybe even more, now. But that's not what this is. This is fear on many levels. Fear that I will do something wrong out there in the world where people can see me. Fear that I will break something that can't be fixed. Fear that I'll go to the wrong place, get lost, get hurt, get the wrong thing. Fear that I'll take too long. Fear that I'll forget something. Fear that I'll get the wrong thing. Last, but most importantly, fear that I'll go out there and mess something up and come home to hear about it. Fear that I'll come home to find I have no home anymore.

    The other fear, the one that comes from going out to be with friends is one of the worst, because the thing I fear happens so damn often. I fear that I will hit that moment when I open my mouth to ask for something and freeze. I have a hard time asking for a glass of water. I have to psych myself up three or four times before I can get it out. How do you expect me to be able to ask to leave? How can I ask someone to stop talking so I can go? The idea, even just that, fills me with terror. How do I fix that? How do I get to the other side of this? How do I even go so far as to admit it?

    I know you don't know. You can't know. I won't tell you. I can't tell you. Because then you might just understand hop broken I am. Then you will have no choice but to throw me away.

    I would do anything to feel safe. I want it so much that I sometimes chose on the need. I just don't know how to get there. I know it. I keep testing it, just to make sure, but I still don't know how to feel it. I'm really so glad that you don't understand. I wish none of us did.


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