A Warning (Part Two)

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“If you come through that door you won’t get one step further!,” Jeremy promised the intruder. He cocked the shotgun for emphasis so that the person could hear just what kind of firepower they were up against. The house was totally silent with the only noise coming from the howling wind and occasional thunder, so Jeremy’s threat was clearly audible and soon answered.

Two more successive slams against the door proved that the intruder was either crazy or thought himself bullet proof. The last blow splintered the wood in the center. I realized in that moment that if the shotgun missed or somehow misfired I might be standing in a dark room alone with a maniac. My sweaty palm gripped the 9mm and I braced myself for the next blow. When it didn’t come Jeremy backed up and whispered to me, “We’re going through the kitchen and out the garage door entrance. You go first and I’ll follow.”

“Do you have your keys?” I hoped. Jeremy was many things but organized was not one of them.

“Not on me. We just have to make it outside and across the street to a neighbor.” He motioned for me to hurry.

The few steps from the darkened living room the lamp lit kitchen seemed to take forever. I kept waiting to hear the sound of wood cracking and a man bursting through. I couldn’t imagine what kind of person would want to get into our home so badly or why. I got to the kitchen door that opens to the garage and my heart sank. I had let the garage door down that night. We were trapped.

“Goddamn it!” Jeremy swore.

The wind suddenly picked up and I could hear tree branches scraping the sides of house outside as if the atmosphere was reacting to Jeremy’s mood. The unmistakable sound of glass shattering exploded in our ears. A grey and white streak of fur darted by my legs and into the pantry. Davey must have been hiding in the sunroom. Jeremy pointed the shotgun into the air in front of the doorway and inched forward. I used my cell phone light to shine into the room so he could see to aim -although I wasn’t sure what he’d be aiming at. The top half of a tree had fallen against one side and landed on the house bursting several glass windows in the process. A terrible stench like rotting leaves and animal remains came from the direction of the tree. As lighting flashed across the sky I could see muddy rain water streaming in through the new holes in our windows and dirt strew across the floor from where the tree had knocked over several house plants.

Jeremy drew closer to the scene, as if some macabre curiosity forced him forward. I shined the light for him so he wouldn’t be surprised by anything. A pitiful mew came from the direction of the pantry and caught my attention. Davey was blind and terrified by all these unusual sounds and smells. I followed his distress cry. The fact that a defenseless animal depended on me, lessened my fear. I stuffed the gun into the back of my jeans pocket and hoped there was no way it could spontaneously fire.

Jeremy backed up quickly and I could hear the shuffling sound of something following him. “They’re climbing up the tree!”

They are? How many people are trying to break into our house?”

“There aren’t any people.” He said it so quietly I almost didn’t hear before I could ask what he meant he shouted at me.

“There’s no time!” He ran down the hall to the front door. The lock had recently broken and it couldn’t be opened from the inside. “Back up and cover your ears.”

He took aim and fire exploded from the end of the gun. I’d heard it fired before, I’d even shot it, but that was at an outdoor shooting range and I’d been wearing protective headgear. This time there was nothing protecting me. I wasn’t able to plug up my ears while holding the cat and Davey carved bloody grooves into my chest in an attempt to scramble away from me. Hot tears ran down my cheeks. My chest was on fire and my ears rang. Jeremy’s voice was muffled like he was screaming into a pillow but I could tell from his expression that he was yelling at the top of his lungs. He put all his weight into delivering a kick to the front door. I still didn’t know who or what was attacking us but I turned my attention toward the danger. An awful sense of dread filled me as the shadows in the house drew together and formed a shape. The door gave way and opened enough for us to see that something blocked it from opening completely.

“It’s a tree!” Jeremy said. “It’s blocking the fucking door.”

Jeremy cursed and gave up on that plan of escape. He turned to see why I’d gone silent and we faced the nightmare together. The mass of black shadows had the vague outline of a man and it might have been my impaired hearing but it sounded like a growl came from it’s center. I could see Jeremy taking aim from the corner of my eye but he didn’t seem to know where to fire. Something like an arm reached out from the swirling mass and long tendrils flexed in my direction. Davey hissed and took a swipe that passed through the arm but caused it to shrink backward.

“You protect this one?” A thin spidery voice asked. I wasn’t sure if it had been spoken aloud or in my head.

“What?”

When the question was repeated I realized it wasn’t being asked of me at all.

Davey bared his fangs and made the fiercest hiss I’d ever heard before turning around in my arms and burying his furry head against my chest.

“Very well,” the voice said. “We will cause no harm.”

Jeremy relaxed the gun beside me. I held my breath as I watched the shadow man withdraw down the hallway and back out of the destroyed window in the sunroom. When it had fully retreated everything went still.

There was no more monstrous wind causing tree limbs to scrape the sides of the house, and no longer any frustrated rumbling from whatever it was that had been trapped in our basement.

Davey leapt from my arms and ran into the sunroom. We both followed and an instant later the lights flickered back on. The giant maple tree in the back yard had completely blown over and crashed into one side of the house shattering several windows . Glass, and mud covered most of the furniture. The light colored carpet in the room was stained with something black and viscous almost like tar.

“What is that?” Jeremy bent down to inspect the semi gelatinous black blob.

“Don’t touch it!” The evidence left behind still gave no indication of what had climbed the tree into our home.

I stared at my cat, who stared back at me as if he could actually see my face. “What happened here?” I asked as if he had the ability to answer. I wondered what he was thinking about. Somehow I knew there was more going on behind those wide green eyes than I’d ever imagined.

I remembered my phone and retrieved it from my back pocket. “My phone’s working now, I’m going to call the police.”

“And tell them what? We were attacked by a shadow?”

“I want to see something.”

I followed him through the house and into the garage. The door was working now and it lifted with a painful slowness. Most of the streetlights had been knocked down by the insane wind but the light in front of our house blinked slowly as it struggled to hold onto it’s tenuous connection to it’s power source.

The houses around us on all sides were gone. The structures themselves had been flattened as if a tornado had touched down on every single one of our neighbors’ homes. In their place trees had grown in an instant, trees that looked as if they’d stood for a hundred years and would stand for a hundred more.

Jeremy wrapped his thick arms around my waist and pulled me close to him. It was hard for my brain to make sense of what I’d seen. “What happened here?” I whispered into his chest.

“I’m not sure, but I think it was a warning.”

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Her First Assignment

Every successful pregnancy provides the female with a higher station in the new S.A.F.E hierarchy of power. Let me rephrase that, women are powerless, but a woman who has borne live children-a thing that has become rare-have certain perks. A larger apartment was one of these perks, so I was currently enjoying the space in my neighbor Ebony’s bathroom.

I sat at her vanity waiting for her to magically transform my hair into a shape. I couldn’t have gone to a stylist, even if those people still existed somewhere, I didn’t have any money. The S.A.F.E program required females to be clean and the purity belts we wore demanded a certain style of clothing, but there was nothing stating we needed to have haircuts.

“Hold still unless you want me to muck it up,” Ebony warned. She was from Wales and had the misfortune to be in the U.S. when the Gender Flu hit. She hadn’t been able to flee the country before the travel ban and was effectively stuck here.

The blades of her giant sewing shears snicked together and strands of pale lifeless hair floated to the floor. She’d been a stylist in another life and still enjoyed practicing her craft in secret. I wanted an inverted bob with bangs but she said it would be too drastic a change and someone would notice. I didn’t understand who it helped to have every detail our lives so regulated? My short haircut wouldn’t hinder getting pregnant, but it also wouldn’t help it, and that would be their argument. Ebony wasn’t even a citizen but she was fully committed to the repopulation effort. If they ever updated the manual to say that haircuts were no longer allowed, she would obey the order without question.

Ebony finished and removed the towel she’d draped over my dress. “Fancy a Squeeze?”

I didn’t want a tart lemon drink, I wanted a glass of wine. I remember my mother was always given a single glass of white wine when she had her hair done. I was given a water or juice if they had it and sometimes the manicurist would even paint my nails while I waited on her. Of course that had been a real beauty salon and it was prior to the Gender Flu.

“Squeeze sounds good,” I lied. I didn’t want to seem impolite or ungrateful. My hair would be hanging down the middle of my back by now if it wasn’t for Ebony.

I opened the can she gave me and took a long swig. The first taste was always the worst, but once you got past that it went down easier. Despite it’s awful taste we all kept drinking it because it was free and also because the government said we needed to drink or risk intestinal infections.

Dorian stood in the doorway with his arms crossed and a severe expression on his face. “It’s time to go we’ve wasted enough of the day.”

I stood and did a twirl. “Do you think he’ll like it?” I asked. Tonight was my first scheduled encounter with my new assignment from the Dating Pool. I didn’t know anything about him other than his name and the fact that he’d paid an absurd amount of money to be with me.

“He has no choice but to like you,” Dorian said and ushered me out of my friends apartment.

I wasn’t sure if that was a compliment or a bleak and obvious comment on the current state of affairs.

Ebony followed me us to the door and before I walked out she turned me around and placed a palm on my flat stomach. “Good luck, and let it be a girl,” she said.

Searching for Entertainment

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As it becomes increasingly cold outside and I am constantly running out of money due to holiday expenditures, I find myself taking up space on the couch more often than I would like. The result of this is that I powered through 4 seasons of Vikings in less than two weeks. After I got bored with watching tutorial videos on how to braid my hair like a Viking, I was left with nothing to do. This is when I discovered Search Party.

Set in modern day New York City, Search Party is a dark comedy about an ordinary twenty something with a boring job, a vapid set of friends and an unfulfilling romantic life who decides to take an interest in a missing person poster. The title character Dory, played by Alia Shawkat (Arrested Development) recognizes the girl in the poster, Chantal Winterbottom, as a nice girl who lived in her dorm, but whom no one seems to remember much about. Dory feels a kinship with Chantal despite not really knowing her and wonders if anyone would in fact care if she were missing. Since she doesn’t have anything else meaningful going on in her own life, Dory takes it upon herself to find this missing woman.

The quest for information on Chantal gives Dory’s life meaning excitement and a direction it had previously been lacking. Of course there are plenty of twists, false leads and clues that don’t turn out to be anything. I won’t say anything about the ending because I don’t want to spoil it. The show is very watchable, the acting is good and the soundtrack is something that I am researching in detail and adding to my Spotify. After watching all 10 episodes I was inspired to go searching for my own mystery to solve. Now I just need a weird group of self-absorbed friends to take this journey with me!

Jelly Takes Over

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I’m sorry, where do I look?

Hello World! I’m Jelly and I got my dad to help me write a guest blog post today because well.. I’m a cat and my nails are too long for me to type good. So let me tell you a little about myself.

I’m officially two years old this month! For the first few weeks of my life mom hid me under the house to keep me safe. Except that one time when there was a big rain storm and she had moved me to an uncomfortable spot behind the backyard grill where I nearly drowned. I was crying because the banana tree wasn’t keeping me dry and then a giant hairless cat grabbed me! She moved me to the garage and tried to dry me off. My eyes weren’t open yet and she smelled weird so I was really scared. When the hairless cat left my mom picked me up and moved me back to the same wet spot where she had me. My fur was all flattened and I was very small so when the male hairless cat saw me being carried by my mom, he gave me the nickname “Black Slug.”

After my encounter with the two hairless cats mom kept me hidden under the house. It was just the two of us because she didn’t give me any brothers or sisters. One day the sun was shining and I was finally big enough that mom decided to take me out. I was still learning to walk but my eyes were open and I was very round from all her milk. We curled up under a plant the hairless cats had just put in the ground. The female saw me first. She made a loud squawking sound like a bird and ran to go get the male. They were both excited to see me again and they took turns holding me. Mom didn’t like it but she tolerated them because they left food out for her every day.  The male named me “Jelly” because of my squishy soft middle. They were nice and gave me lots of cuddles and food. Soon after this, mom and I got to move into their house which was much  more comfortable than under house. I got to meet my uncle Magoo who was only about 6 months older than mom, and a random old lady called Poopie. She sleeps a lot and sometimes grooms the top of my head, she’s nice.

So that’s my story of how I was adopted. I think someone is doing a project downstairs I need to help with. Bye for now!

-Jelly

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Book Review “Destruction” By Sharon Bayliss

Destruction-Sharon Bayliss

*OFFICIAL SPOILER ALERT*

I recently purchased Destruction by Sharon Bayliss because I wanted to have an idea of what kind of book her publisher liked. I also liked the cover art. I am a fantasy fan and prefer a much longer story but this book was pleasantly surprising. After finishing it I’m glad that it is the first in a series and I’ve already ordered the second book on Amazon. I can’t wait to spend more time with the “December people.”

Even though this book is about a dark wizard family there are no exotic or fantasy settings and not much magic because most of the characters didn’t know they had magic. The majority of this story takes place inside main protagonist, David Vandergraff’s home in Houston Texas. It’s the story of a struggling marriage and a family in crisis. Most of the problems David faces are things that any normal grown man might have.  There’s the uncertain future due to the failure of his construction business, his guilt over a 12 year old affair that he must now admit to his wife, and the fear that telling the truth will destroy his family. While trying to hang on to her, David must form a relationship with his recently orphaned children who are the result of his affair and whom he’s never met. David now has five teenage children that live under the same roof and one abandoned neighbor child that’s living with him for the foreseeable future.Then you add in the fact that all members of the family are dark wizards.

I enjoyed the Bayliss’s treatment of magic in this story. She explains that each wizard is associated with a particular season and that their associated magic is lighter or darker depending on their season. I also liked her idea of using wizards as protective talismans for other wizards instead of simply having them use charms and the fact that bad things happen if a wizards ties to their talisman is broken. I feel that she has managed to achieve an enormous amount of character development for David and his family in a relatively short amount of time. Though the use of magic wasn’t a big part of this novel, the scenes where it makes an appearance are beautiful and left me feeling just as frustrated as one of David’s children after his wife Amanda forbade magic’s use in the home. I want to see more of what this family can do!

I have two  critiques about the story that don’t come until the end. The first is  when the eldest son Jude, completely changes roles from protector to villain without much warning. There was evidence of his depression in his quitting the football team, drinking too much and breaking up with his girlfriend but nothing to suggest he’d be violent toward others. The author does mention at the beginning of the story that magic is dangerous and she gives several examples of wizards who have gone crazy using it.  I feel that this might be mentioned early on so Jude’s change in attitude will make sense later, but he’s only known about magic for a few weeks. It that doesn’t seem long enough to drive Jude crazy.  I’m sure that the second book will go into further detail about why Jude has changed and like I said earlier, I can’t wait to read it!

My second critique is that the reader never got to see the big dark wizard battle that the entire story seemed to be leading up to! David Vandergraff is about to confront the man who abused his children, might have killed his lover and could very possibly still kill his youngest daughter, but that confrontation doesn’t happen. David doesn’t fight him at all and isn’t even present when the big fight takes place. The reader only gets to hear about it through the David’s daughter Emmy’s retelling of the fight. It’s a huge buildup and then a let down to me. Bayliss does a great job of setting everything up for an epic battle in the desert but it never came. In fact we never even see what this darkest of all dark wizards, Whitman Colter, can do!  I did enjoy the irony of Whitman’s sister having to fight and destroy him and the fact that in doing so, she likely killed herself. However, I would have had more enjoyment from a David and Whitman showdown. II find myself hoping Whitman isn’t dead so we can see him fight David at some point!

 

Random Bag of Trash

While jogging earlier in the week at one of Lilburn’s fine parks I came across a random trash bag with several clothing items, a bible and a small smashed radio.  The items had been abandoned with no clue as to why they were there in the first place except a strange notebook paper task list that was equally random. I snapped a photo and wrote a short story about the origin of these things.

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All Jerry’s remaining possessions were useless junk. He had them arranged out in front of him in the grass, the embodiment of his life’s achievements. Everything together wouldn’t get him fifty dollars if he put an ad out for them on craigslist. The one thing of any value, which wouldn’t be valuable to anyone but Jerry, was his father’s tattered bible.

In his past life he’d flown frequently for work and used to try and read the bible on the plane. He mostly just read the same page over and over and gripped the arm wrest with the hand not occupied with holding the book. At the time he’d needed something to believe in greater than himself. The book was a representation of an all-powerful being he’d hoped was watching out for him. Now, it was okay to leave the bible behind, because someone else watched out for him.

Everything else he had was borrowed clothing. He had one pair of jeans so stiff they might have been able to repel bullets, two under shirts and a few pairs of black socks. He carried these things in a white trash bag, which made him look slightly more schizophrenic than just his unwashed hair and paranoid gaze could achieve on their own. He clutched a mini tape player in his nervous palm. Jerry knew that his recording was indulgent, but he couldn’t help himself. He would be finished with the list today, and then his time on this Earth would end. It was a small comfort to know that something would remain to mark his presence on this Earth.

“It’s been two days since I left Atlanta. I had to take a taxi out to Stone Mountain but I have avoided all contact with outsiders since. I’m working through the instructions faster than expected. I finished with the church yesterday; it was Baptist, I think. They gave me money for food along with my choice of a few things from their donations bin. I will of course be leaving all of these things before departure.

Jerry stopped the tape when he heard voices in the distance. An elderly couple in jogging outfits were coming around the corner and getting closer to him. He was told not to engage with others or draw attention to himself. Jerry slumped against his trash bag full of clothes and pretended to sleep. They were so busy discussing holiday vacation plans they didn’t see him at first.

As the couple drew closer the woman yelped in surprise. “Arnie, look there’s a man! Should we call someone?”

“He’s not doing anything, but sleeping. It is a public park.”

“I know, but maybe he’s sick or needs help. And he can’t just sleep here, there are children playing nearby.”

“Hey fella. You into some trouble?”

Jerry groaned as if in pain and rolled over turning his back to them. He pulled the top of his hoodie down over his face to signify he did not want to be disturbed.

“He’s probably just sleeping off a drunk and anyways, it ain’t none of our business.”

Jeff held his breath and only let it go when he heard their footsteps receding in the opposite direction. Maybe I should find a more secluded area. Rabbits and squirrels aren’t likely to tell anyone what I’m doing, but that nagging old bat might talk Arnie into calling the police. That was the last thing Jerry needed.

He pulled out a folded piece of notebook paper with hastily written instructions in red ink. Most of the items listed were barely legible and if anyone tried to read them, the list would sound like utter nonsense. The ravings of a homeless lunatic, which is exactly how they wanted it to appear. It was the perfect accessory to his random trash bag full of junk. He was down to the last item. Come alone. Don’t bring anything.

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Jerry folded the notebook paper and placed it neatly inside the bible. He looked around to make sure no one was coming up the path before stripping down completely. It was around noon but the November air hadn’t warmed up much from it’s frosty beginning. His skin broke out in gooseflesh as he folded the borrowed clothes and placed them inside the trash bag. He took one last look at his pathetic pile. Am I really giving up so much? Jerry jumped through the trees just as a police siren sounded in the distance. He had barely been eating for the last few days so he didn’t have the energy to run at full speed. However, the parking lot was at least a half-mile away and they’d have to get out of their cars and hike to reach him. They would find his bag, and bible. Maybe they would even take a moment to puzzle over the strange notebook paper list, but he would be long gone by then.

Acid Pussy – Scene 11 – Siren Gym

It was a bit of a distraction having Voytek around. She wanted to show him that she was more than just a card dealer at a casino.

“POW!” Shit. That hurt! Morgan’s fist landed right above Ryan’s left eye and opened a small cut. She’d stumbled backward and her sparring partner smiled. Hope you enjoyed that, because it won’t happen again.   Morgan faked a right jab but Ryan knew the girl was just trying to distract her.

“THWACK!” Ryan threw an inside leg kick that nearly took Morgan’s feet out from under her. She was favoring that leg now and trying not to show it.

“Give her a flying knee!” Voytek yelled from the corner earning him a slap on the head from her corner. She couldn’t help but smile. People who didn’t know the sport always said things like that.

Ryan decided it was time to end this fight. She flew forward exposing herself and making her untested chin vulnerable for a second to attempt a superman punch. They always look more impressive than they are and almost never land. Almost, never.

“Holy shit!”  Voytek was on his feet.

Morgan’s body flew backward on impact and Ryan actually felt guilty that she landed the blow. If this were a real fight she would be on top of Morgan bouncing her head off the mat to ensure her victory.

Instead she walked to her corner a little worried as the coach called for a medic. Voytek was only proud, not concerned.

“Is that chick getting back up?” he asked indicating the prone twitching form of Morgan a few feet away. Women’s MMA was something new and exciting to him.

“In a minute I hope. You know I really didn’t think I would land that punch. Hey, you want to try your luck?” She danced around a little and punched the air.

“Is that allowed?”

Coach Buster was clearly amused when the question was directed at him. “It’s typical for her to spar with myself or another man if there happens to be one here of similar size.”

“Right. He said it’s okay, so do you want to? I’m sure there is an extra pair of gloves you can borrow.”

Ryan just wanted to play around a little with him but he didn’t seem interested.

“I wouldn’t want to mess up that pretty face. I’d feel awful if I accidentally hurt you.”

Ryan put her hands on her hips trying to look shocked. “Just to be clear you’re passing on the opportunity to get hot and sweaty with me rolling around on the ground?”

“I don’t believe it, but I think I am. I’ll have to take a pass this time.”