Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

The Pit

Posted: March 12, 2018 in Uncategorized

#ShortStorySunday

I was an avid outdoor enthusiast who loved everything outhouse-oldabout being in the woods: trees, fresh air, campfires and best of all, peace and quiet. Dirt, wildlife, tents, and pit toilets were all part of the experience. I’ll admit that having to use rustic restroom facilities were not my favorite part of camping but they never bothered me that much; that was, until I encountered the thing in the outhouse.

I stumbled down the path half-asleep one night sometime around three am, flashlight in hand in hopes that I wouldn’t trip and do a face-plant in the dirt. I locked myself inside the tiny wooden house and avoided looking into the hole beneath the seat before and after doing my business. I mean, who would want to see what was down there? Everybody knows what’s down there and it’s not pleasant.

When I was finished, I discovered to my horror that the lock was stuck. I set the flashlight on top of the toilet paper roll so I could use both hands to jiggle it loose. It really was stuck. The rusted bolt began to inch back slightly as I worked it back and forth. It was then that I heard a noise coming from behind me… or more specifically, below me.

I froze, holding my breath so I could listen carefully. Was there a wild animal outside the outhouse, waiting for me to free myself from one predicament just to stumble into even greater peril?

Silence.

Then I heard it again. A wet, sucking sound, followed by what sounded like a wheeze – laborious breath drawn into a congested pair of lungs.

I reached a shaking hand toward my flashlight, afraid to take my eyes off of the black hole I knew was the toilet pit. I fumbled and the flashlight fell to the floor with a loud THUMP. Then the light went out.

I froze again, listening for sounds from below.

Nothing.

I squatted, groping around on the floor for the flashlight. I bit back a scream when my hand touched something soft and wet.

Please let that be a slug or some mud! I begged inside my mind.

My fingers found the smooth metal cylinder of the flashlight, and I nearly wept from relief. The bottom had popped off and the batteries had come loose when it fell. I found the bottom and put the flashlight back together. I pressed the switch and it worked.

Do I even want to look?

I had to look. I knew I had no choice. If I was going to spend the night trapped in the shithouse, I at least needed to know whether or not I was alone in there. I shone the light into the pit.

The sight I beheld was the usual thing one might expect to see in the pit of an outdoor toilet – a mountain of stuff most foul, with bits of tissue embedded here and there. As nasty as it was, the sight comforted me because it was normal. Nothing moved and all was quiet.

Relieved, I once again turned my attention to the stubborn door lock and managed to work it loose. I opened the door a crack and peered out cautiously. I swept the flashlight beam across the path. If the noises hadn’t come from inside the pit, then whatever had made them might still be out there, waiting… I envisioned a Grizzly bear, sitting behind the outhouse, licking his chops as he waited for me to become his dinner.

Slurp. Suck. Wheeze.

There it was again! The sound had definitely come from behind me. I turned to face the toilet pit once again, keeping my foot braced against the door to prevent it from swinging shut. I leaned over and tentatively shone my light into the hole, preparing to look in again.

Whatever was down there didn’t like the light, from the frantic slapping, slopping noise it made. If I didn’t know better, I’d think someone had thrown a live trout down the hole.

I leaned over and looked. I saw nothing at first, then caught slight movement at the edge of the hole, near the base of Mount Feces. I followed it with the light as it burrowed into the muck. The thing was about the size of a toddler, plump and pink-bodied with a long ratlike tail. Some kind of hairless mutant sewer rat? It was too big to be a rat. It was probably a stupid idea, but I needed to see. I stamped my foot on the floor to get its attention. It stopped burrowing and turned to look up at me, face and… hands? covered in filth. The tail was where its resemblance to a rat ended. The face was rounded, almost human looking, with a scowl to rival the fiercest gargoyle. The thing withdrew from its burrow and, making that slappy-sloppy fish-out-of-water sound, it scuttled up the side of Mount Feces, toward my light.

I knew I should stop shining the light on it and get out of there. Somewhere in the back of my mind, logic screamed at me to run away as far and as fast as possible, but my body refused to listen. I stared, captivated, as the thing crouched on top of the shit-pile and raised a pale, bony arm. It reached toward the top of the hole as if hoping to grab the edge and pull itself out. The pit wasn’t full enough; it still fell several feet short of touching the edge of the toilet seat or possibly giving someone’s ass an unexpected tickle.

It wheezed a wet, whistly breath and then it spoke. The words were barely audible, but I swear it spoke to me.

“Feeeed meee,” it whispered, stretching its hand upward, long spidery fingers grasping but unable to reach.

If I hadn’t already used the toilet I probably would have done so right then and there.

Instead, I ran.

I packed my camping gear and drove away without waiting for sunrise. I was unable to explain my hasty departure to the group of friends I had been camping with, except to say that something urgent had come up. I warned them to stay away from that particular outhouse, using the excuse that I had seen a wasp nest in there.

As I drove down the highway into the dawn, I did some calculations in my head. The campground had about 150 sites, all occupied because it was the start of Labor Day weekend. By the end of the weekend, all of the pit toilets would be in dire need of pumping, but the truck probably wouldn’t arrive until midway through the following week. Plenty of time for the creature, whatever it was, to reach the rim of the hole and pull itself out.

I might camp again, someday.

But only in a campground with proper plumbing.

 

Copyright © 2014 Mandy White

 

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Of Peach and Pigs

Posted: February 27, 2018 in Uncategorized

This is my entry to the Evil Squirrel’s Nest Annual Contest of Whatever:

Georgia hadn’t planned to run away. At first, she’d just planned to take off for the weekend to spend it with her boyfriend, Louie. When her mother caught her, things escalated.

Her mother disapproved of Louie.

“He’s too old for you! He isn’t even a high school graduate! Is that what you want? A future with a plumber?”

“Oh, you’re a fine one to talk, Mom! You dropped out of high school and eloped. With a mechanic! How did that work out for you?”

“Don’t you dare insult your father! He was an honest, hardworking man!”

“Yeah, until a Buick dropped on his head.”

Georgia felt the sting of the slap before she even saw her mother swing.

“You watch your mouth, Missy. Your father loved you.” Tears welled in her mother’s eyes and her tone softened. “He loved you so much. He called you his little Georgia Peach. That’s how you got your nickname.”

“I know.” Peach was her father’s special nickname for her. Most of her friends just called her Georgie. Georgia hugged her stuffed dragon, Yoshi. The toy was the last birthday present he had given her before his death. She had come home from school to find a bright pink box on her bed.

* * *

“Open it, Princess.” Her father stood in the doorway, grinning.

Georgia carefully untied the bow and opened the box. A green plush toy nestled in the pink tissue paper. She picked it up and hugged it. “He’s adorable! Thank you, Daddy!”

He nodded toward the box. “There’s more.”

 

She pulled back the tissue to reveal another, smaller box. Inside was a gold necklace set with a glittering gemstone. She held it up to the light and gasped at the shades of pink and gold reflected through the facets.

“Oh, Daddy! It’s gorgeous! What is it?”

“Topaz. Your birthstone. It’s called Imperial Topaz. I saw the color and thought you’d like it.”

“It looks expensive. You shouldn’t have.”

“Nothing is too good for my Princess Peach. Happy birthday, sweetheart.”

 

***

smash-luigi-peach-640x360

That was before. When life was perfect. Before a malfunctioning hoist crushed her father under a ton of metal. Before she met Louie.

 

Louie was a bit rough around the edges, much like she imagined her father must have been when her mother met him. She couldn’t understand why her mother didn’t like him, he should have reminded her of Daddy. Perhaps that was why. Her mother expected more from her daughter than what she herself had achieved.

None of that mattered now. It was her life, not her mother’s. How dare she tell her how to live it?

Later that evening, after her mother was asleep, Georgia packed a bag with a few extra clothes, makeup, and Yoshi, then slipped out the window into the night.

***

Her romantic rendezvous with Louie fell flat when she walked into his apartment to find him in the arms of another. His boss from the plumbing company, to be exact. Mary, aka “Hairy Mary” had a mustache to rival any of her male counterparts, not to mention a cavernous plumber’s crack. And there was Louie, in bed with her.

Georgia shrieked with fury and stormed out.

“Baby, wait!” Louie called after her, but he didn’t follow.

She set out alone, hitchhiking down a dark highway to who knew where.

She considered going home, but she wasn’t ready to face her mother yet. She needed to find a place to rest, and think about her next move.

The sky lightened on the horizon as dawn approached. The countryside was unfamiliar; desolate except for a few scattered farms. She noticed a large barn and wondered if she could take shelter inside. She hoped it was the kind of barn with a nice soft hayloft and not the kind filled with animal poop and rusted farm equipment.

Jackpot. It was the hayloft kind.

Georgia climbed the ladder and nestled into the hay, hoping she wouldn’t encounter any mice.

The Topaz on her necklace twinkled with an eerie light as she fell into a deep sleep.

* * *

Peach awoke, refreshed but somewhat confused about her surroundings. She could have sworn she had fallen asleep in a barn filled with hay. Now, she found herself in a sunlit green garden filled with strange trees and flowers. Odd structures dotted the landscape here and there; random clusters of bricks, ramps and upright pipes that didn’t seem to go anywhere. She approached one of the pipes and peered inside. Darkness swirled around her and she felt herself falling.

“Help!” she screamed.

“I’m coming, Baby! Hang on!” Louie’s voice reached her in the darkness.

“Oh, no you don’t, Luigi!” Peach recognized Hairy Mary’s gravely voice. “You ain’t goin’ nowheres! Now git yer lazy butt back here.”

Her fall ended in a gentle landing. Brick walls surrounded her. It looked like some kind of dungeon. Thirsty, Peach slipped her backpack off her shoulders and groped inside for her water bottle. Something squirmed.

She screamed and jumped back, dropping the backpack. A small green head popped out.

“Hellooo!” Yoshi squeaked.

“Yoshi? You can talk?”

“Of course! What are we going to do first?”

“Well, first I think I’d like to get out of this place.”

“Follow meee!” Yoshi said, his voice trailing off as he disappeared into the nearest pipe.

Peach had no choice but to follow. Darkness swirled again and she felt the falling sensation again, only this time she landed in a colorful place, beside a road. Yoshi sat behind the wheel of a car, waiting for her.

MKWii_Yoshi

“Let’s go!” he said.

Peach hopped in and Yoshi drove down the twisty road at blinding speeds, occasionally bumping strange creatures out of the way. They approached another car from the rear.

“Woohoo! It’s Mario and Luigi! We got ourselves a race!” Yoshi shouted over the noise of the cars.

Mary drove like a fiend, her unibrow furrowed and her mustache thicker and fiercer than Peach had ever seen. Louie said nothing. He looked scared, gripping the dashboard like his life depended on it.

Yoshi overtook their car, only to get bumped out of the way.

They crossed the finish line in second place. Mary, aka Mario, jumped out of the car and did a crazy little victory dance, whooping and waving two middle fingers at them. Luigi gave Peach a sad look and shrugged his shoulders.

Peach responded with a middle finger of her own.

“C’mon Yoshi. Let’s get out of here. Who needs these losers?” She walked toward the nearest pipe and jumped in without waiting for Yoshi to follow.

The darkness swirled, then changed to a warm, bright light. Pinkish gold, like the stone in her Topaz necklace. Strong arms wrapped around her.

“Princess Peach.”

She recognized the voice.

“Daddy?”

“What are you doing, sweetheart?”

“I don’t know. I just needed to cool off. I was mad at my boyfriend.” Peach fell into her father’s arms, sobbing. “I thought he’d be more like you, but he’s just a jerk.”

“I was a jerk at that age too. You should set your sights a little higher.”

“I miss you, Daddy.”

“I know. I miss you too, sweetheart. But your mother needs you. Please go home and take care of her for me. Remember that I always love you.” His words faded to a whisper and he shrunk until only Yoshi the stuffed toy remained in her arms. The light faded to a tiny glimmer, emanating from her Topaz necklace.

* * *

Peach sat up. Bits of hay stuck to her hair and clothes. Sunlight filtered through a window high in the loft. Voices conversed in the barn below. Something about bathing hogs.

“Hello?” she called.

She descended the ladder.

A woman in overalls stood beside an old cast-iron bathtub. A man, presumably her husband, was inside the tub with a pig.

“Um… hi there,” Peach said. “I’m sorry for trespassing. I just took a nap in your hayloft.”

The woman glanced up, busy opening the cap on a bottle of shampoo.

“Ain’t no matter. Y’all wanna give us a hand bathing these hogs? There’s room if ya wanna jump right in. That is, if it ain’t too weird for ya.”

“Thanks, but I need to get home. And by the way, this isn’t even the weirdest thing I’ve seen today.”

This is my entry to the Evil Squirrel’s Nest Annual Contest of Whatever! Check out the rest of the entries here!

Holocaust

Posted: February 21, 2018 in Uncategorized

The survivors called it The Holocaust.

Some disapprove of our using that word but the truth is, it’s just a word. Nobody owns a word. There wasn’t a better name for what happened; it was beyond all reason or comprehension.

It happened suddenly. One moment we were safe in our homes, under cover of darkness and the next moment a blinding light came, burning our skin. We were torn from our homes and thrown into a cramped space. Dozens of us thrashed against each other in confusion. It was chaos; up was down and down was up. We could feel the earth moving beneath us but had no way of knowing where we were headed.

That was just the beginning of the horror.

Those who died were the lucky ones.

When the earth stopped moving the bright lights came once again, searing, scorching those unlucky enough to be exposed. We tried to scramble for cover beneath the writhing masses of our neighbors’ bodies but not everyone made it. One by one we were plucked from the relative safety of our prison to endure even further horrors.

Some were never seen again.

Others were returned to the prison maimed and dismembered, telling horrific tales of our kind being skewered on sharp hooks and then discarded into the depths like so much garbage. Some of the amputees survived but the memory of their torture was forever etched into their minds.

When the ordeal was over we had lost many family and friends. Those of us who remained were set free; not to our original home but in a new land where we were able to start anew.

We will never understand…

We worms will never understand this fascination humans have with fishing.

 

 

Your Heart Will be Mine

Posted: February 14, 2018 in Uncategorized

valentine

~ You twist through my heart ~

~ Like a bolt through a nut ~

~ I am a nut ~

~ Think twice before you bolt ~

~*~

Megan wept, curled on her side in the tightest ball she could manage. She had been curled up in the fetal position on her bed for hours – days, actually, doing nothing but cry. Barely moving except to use the bathroom and drink a bit of water. She couldn’t eat, she couldn’t sleep and the ache in her chest wouldn’t go away no matter how many painkillers she took.

 

 

So this is what a broken heart feels like.

She now understood why they called it heartbreak. What she felt was beyond sadness; it manifested as a tangible physical pain in her chest that radiated down into her belly. It was the most horrible sensation ever, and it was all HIS fault. How could he have been so cruel to her when all she had done was love him? She didn’t know where she had gone wrong. She had given him everything; waited on him hand and foot and catered to his every wish but in the end it wasn’t enough. He took her heart and tore it to shreds and then walked out the door as if the last two years had meant nothing.

She wanted to die.

If I died, you’d be sorry! You’d have to live with it for the rest of your life, knowing that YOU were the one who drove me to suicide!

Died of a broken heart.

That would show him how much she loved him.

Nobody else will ever love you the way I do! You’ll see! One day you will come crawling back to me with your heart in shreds, then you’ll know how you made me feel. And then I can kiss you better. We can heal together.

No, she would not end her life. Life was worth living as long as there was a chance of winning him back.

She would get him back.

Or die trying.

Richard tried to leave her several times during the last year but each time she convinced him to stay. She begged and pleaded and promised to be everything he wanted in a woman but he became cold and aloof nonetheless. He didn’t want intimacy anymore. He participated in sex when she was persistent enough to make his physical urges overcome his mental reluctance but his lack of desire was obvious.

She was willing to accept his lack of enthusiasm in their relationship as long as he didn’t leave. They could work things out. She would make it better. She just had to make him see how much she loved him and he would know they were destined to be together.

The pregnancy changed everything.

The one thing that should have cemented them together forever was the catalyst that ended their relationship. He was willing to stay for the sake of the baby. He even agreed to marry her after much pleading and cajoling on her part.

It would be the perfect wedding. She had already chosen her dress – a high-waisted design that would look stunning even with the bulge in her belly. She booked the church and hired the caterer and sent out invitations. It would be the beautiful fairytale wedding of her dreams. Afterward, he would take her in his arms and carry her over the threshold and make love to her, tenderly and passionately the way a husband should. Their life together would be picture-perfect.

There was just one small detail:

She wasn’t pregnant.

Megan thought she was pregnant, without a doubt. Even though the pregnancy tests (three of them, to be exact) were negative, she assumed it was too early for them to be accurate. She experienced all the symptoms – the missed period, tender breasts, bloated belly, and irritability. She even felt sick in the mornings. When her period arrived late, it was easy to hide it from him since he showed no interest in her physically. Since their engagement Richard had become even more distant, never meeting her eyes and only speaking to her when necessary.

It didn’t matter that the pregnancy was a false alarm. She would be pregnant by the time they got married; she would make sure of it.

She managed to convince him to have sex once during the following month but it did not result in pregnancy. Panicked, she redoubled her efforts to seduce him, but the harder she tried, the less receptive he became. When they did try, he couldn’t sustain an erection long enough to finish.

Four months passed. Then five, and still she wasn’t pregnant. She faked the symptoms, pretending to get sick in the mornings and eating like a horse so she would gain some girth and appear pregnant. The wedding was just six weeks away and she only needed to keep up her charade until after the minister declared them husband and wife. After that, she could fake a miscarriage and he would be there to comfort her and they could try again to start a family.

She began to wear padding under her clothing to keep up the appearance of an advancing pregnancy

* * *

She didn’t hear him come into the house that day.

The past few months, he had been moving around the house like a ghost, silent, never speaking unless spoken to. On that particular day, he came home from work early. Megan wasn’t expecting him. She stood in front of the bedroom mirror; trying on the next size pillow she was going to bind to her belly to make it look thicker.

She had no idea how long he had been standing there, watching her in silence.

He said nothing, but his eyes spoke the rage in his heart.

He refused to speak to her, no matter how she cried and pleaded. He started packing immediately and left that night, taking only the bare necessities. She clung to his leg, begging him to stay but he peeled her off of him in disgust. He walked out of her life without giving a second thought to their future together, leaving her blubbering on the floor.

Megan was not only heartbroken; she was humiliated. He told his family and all of their friends about her deceit and his reason for leaving. Nobody would speak to her.

She was alone.

* * *

A year later, Megan still sobbed herself to sleep but not as often. The pain in her chest had diminished to a dull ache but it never went away altogether. They said time heals all wounds but she knew that in her case it wouldn’t. She still loved Richard heart and soul and would never stop. They were meant to be together. He was hers and no amount of time or distance would ever change that.

She wasted her Saturday afternoons wandering through the mall, gazing at the gowns in the bridal shop, the sexy lingerie in Victoria’s Secret and the endless displays of adorable children’s clothing. From infant to toddler to preschooler… there were too many cute outfits to choose from. She should have been buying clothing for her own child – for their child. Instead, she could only look and dream.

She wandered toward the food court to feed her craving for sweets. She had been living on junk food and had gained a considerable amount of weight. It didn’t matter because she had nobody to stay thin for. At that moment, Cinnabon called to her.

A baby stroller blocked her path as she navigated through the tables to get to the food counters. She edged around it, pausing for a moment to admire the baby, a little girl about three months old, dressed in an adorable pink outfit. The parents, engrossed in conversation, giggled and shared an intimate kiss.

Megan froze.

No.

It couldn’t be!

It was him. Richard.

Her Richard.

Judging from the age of the infant in the stroller, he hadn’t wasted any time after leaving her. He might have already been seeing that woman behind her back! That would explain his lack of interest in Megan. The slut had already tired him out before he got home.

Rage boiled inside her when she saw the engagement ring on the woman’s finger – a large, stunning diamond solitaire. Nothing like the cheap little band he had grudgingly given her.

“YOU BASTARD!” Megan roared, sweeping the food and beverages off the table onto the couple’s laps.

“YOU DIRTY CHEATING MOTHERFUCKER!”

“Richard?” the woman said, her voice fearful. She pulled the baby stroller away from Megan.

“You stay out of it, slut! I’m talking to my husband. You’ve done enough already!”

Richard finally spoke up. “Get the hell away from my family, you crazy bitch.”

“YOUR family? YOUR family?” Megan sputtered. “What about OUR family? The one you couldn’t even give me because your dick was always limp!”

“I never wanted you, Megan. I never loved you. You were a mistake. The biggest mistake I ever made.” Richard’s tone was calm. He spoke the words without emotion. How could he not feel anything after sharing his life with her for two years?

Richard’s bitch had taken her child and moved away from the table. She was talking to the clerk at Cinnabon and a security guard was making his way toward them.

“You think you’ll be happy with her?” Megan yelled. “She’s nothing! You and ME! WE were meant to be together! Nobody will love you the way I do. Nobody!”

The security guard stepped between them.

“I’ll have to ask you to move away, ma’am. Leave these people alone.”

“Fuck you!” she spat, leaning around the uniformed man to make eye contact with Richard once more.

“You can’t escape fate, Richard. You’re mine! One day you’ll come crawling back. You love me. I know you do.”

Two more security guards came from behind and took her arms, leading her away from the food court. They demanded that she leave at once or the police would be called.

Megan left. She had said her piece.

Richard knew the truth.

She would make him see the truth.

* * *

Megan’s outburst with Richard energized her; freed her from the shackles of depression. She felt electrified, filled with new hope. She had a purpose again: Richard, and her future with him. She just needed to take the place of the baby-making whore in the food court and everything would be perfect again.

She would win him back. His heart had always been hers; he just didn’t realize it yet.

Having been banned from the local mall, Megan’s Saturday shopping trip took her to the streets and a new neighborhood where she had never been. Her Obsessive Compulsive Disorder made it difficult to deviate from an established routine. As a result, she seldom visited new places. Occasionally change was forced. This time she found it refreshing instead of disturbing. Her therapist, whom she hadn’t seen in more than five years, would have called it “a positive step”.

The weathered red brick buildings offered a nice change of scenery from the icy-smooth grey concrete downtown. The new neighborhood featured a wealth of second-hand stores, a few hippie bong shops and some dusty-looking used bookstores. It was in one of these bookstores that she found it.

The tattered brown binding of the book caught her eye and immediately she reached for it.

The Joy of Spellcasting.

She chuckled at the silly title.

It sounds like a cookbook. Why not? It could be fun. Megan purchased the book and walked home with a spring in her step.

She opened the book to the table of contents and quickly found what she sought.

Love Spells – page 131.

She noticed handwriting at the bottom of the yellowed page. The ink had blurred over time but was still legible. Megan held it up to the light to make out the words.

“Be warned, ye who goest here. Think ye long on what thou desirest. The spells contained within be those most powerful. What thou desirest, thou shalt receive.”

Megan smirked. It sounded like something out of a low-budget after-school Halloween special.

Good to know. Let’s see if it’s true.

She turned to page 131 and began to read.

There were several love spells and potions but most of them looked complicated. They contained ingredients she had never heard of and took too long to yield results. They ranged anywhere from six months to three years to complete a spell. Megan wanted results now.

She settled on the One Moon Love Charm. It claimed to return a lost love in one month and she had all the ingredients to make it work:

 

A container made from wood or metal.

A likeness of your lost love. OR

An object belonging to your lost love, OR

A sample of your loved one’s blood or flesh.

 

Write on a piece of parchment exactly what you desire.

Seal with your own blood or flesh to bond with your lover’s flesh for all eternity.

Bury the container three feet deep in dark soil under the light of the full moon.

Stand over the burial site and turn around three times and then say the incantation every night for one month. When the moon reaches its next fullness, the object of your desire will come to you.

 

Megan selected a heart-shaped wooden jewelry box Richard had given her when they first started dating – back when he still knew he loved her. The box held no jewelry except the engagement ring she no longer wore. She had been using it to store her favorite photos of Richard, all carefully cropped with a pair of scissors to a heart shape.

A likeness of your lost love.

What better likeness than an actual photo? She left all of the photos in the box.

OR an object belonging to your lost love.

Richard had left most of his belongings behind when he left, so why not add that as well? She selected a watch she had bought him for Christmas that he always seemed to forget to wear and his razor, which he had left in the bathroom.

OR a sample of your loved one’s blood or flesh.

Technically, the razor already had that covered, since it contained beard stubble and probably skin cells as well. She wanted to add as much punch to the spell as possible. More would be better, right? She cleaned the bathtub drain, extracting a slimy hairball made up of both his hair and hers. That covered both samples of their flesh.

On a plain white piece of paper, she wrote the words she had chosen:

 

Richard Cole, I desire your heart and nothing else.

 

She folded it neatly and placed it in the box.

She sliced her index finger with a razor blade and let the blood drip over the contents of the jewelry box.

Under the full moon she stood, on the fresh mound of dirt beneath which the box was buried. She turned around three times and then recited the incantation, which she had memorized:

 

“By the Earth below and the moon above,

You will be my one true love.

Bound in blood and sealed in Earth,

Waiting for our love’s new birth.

Empowered by the Law of Three,

Richard’s heart will come to me.

Three times Three.

So mote it be.”

 

She repeated the incantation two more times just for good measure. If the Law of Three was a real thing, then it made sense to do everything three times to amplify the power threefold.

The following night she repeated the ritual, chanting the incantation three times. After a pause, she recited it three times more.

She couldn’t stop the pattern once it had begun. Richard had hated her OCD but it was one of the things that made her organized and precise in everything she did. Every night she added three more repetitions to the incantation. When she reached the 29th night she recited it a total of 87 times. When she went to bed at night, the rhyme played over and over inside her head until she fell asleep.

The moon had reached the first day of its three days of fullness. It would be at its fullest the following night. Megan snuggled happily into her bed, confident that Richard would be with her soon.

* * *

“Jenkins! Get in here! You gotta see this!” Ralph Anderson shouted to his assistant.

Jenkins wandered through the double doors of the morgue, stuffing the remains of a tuna sandwich into his mouth.

“I’m still on break. Couldn’t you have waited another ten minutes?”

“No, I need you to see this. You gotta tell me I’m not crazy.”

Jenkins approached the table where his superior was conducting a routine autopsy. The ribcage was splayed open, revealing the inside of the stiff’s chest.

“So what’s the deal? You find an alien in there? Looks pretty normal to me.”

“Look again. Tell me what you see. More specifically, what’s missing?”

Jenkins leaned over the corpse to take a closer look, licking mayonnaise off of his fingertips.

“Yeah, so it looks like you’ve already removed the heart, and—”

“But I haven’t,” Anderson said, almost in a whisper.

“Sure you have. It’s not in there.” Jenkins looked around at the empty stainless steel trays that surrounded the autopsy table. “So, where’d ya put it?’

“I’m telling you, it wasn’t in there when we got him.”

“So, what is this then, a serial killer case?”

“No. Probable heart attack. Sudden death, cause unknown.”

“So, where’s the heart?”

“That is the question, isn’t it? There was no incision in the body, no sign of hemorrhage inside. It’s just… missing.”

“We gonna record this?”

“Who’s gonna believe us? I’m closing him back up and labeling him a coronary.”

* * *

Megan woke the morning of the thirtieth day, feeling well rested and energized. Today, Richard would return. She would take a nice long bath and put on something pretty and fix him a nice dinner. It would be the perfect day – one for which she had worked very diligently.

She stretched and yawned, rolling over to caress the pillow where Richard would lay his head that night.

Her hand touched something wet.

Something rounded, about the size of her fist.

It was warm, and pulsed with a steady, rhythmic beat.

 

e¯f

 

Copyright © 2012 Mandy White

Vegan Meat

Posted: February 6, 2018 in Uncategorized

Something silly I cooked up for WPaD’s #ShortStorySunday challenge.

It’s based on an idiotic rant I saw on the internet in which someone (probably in jest) claimed pigs were a hybrid of muskrat, bobcat, and hyena. Ah, the internet… such a source of horsefuckery and inspiration.

Vegan Meat 

~*~

“The cow and pig are not even natural animals. Tell me, where in nature can you find a cow? A farm is man-made and cows and pigs are hybridized animals. A pig is cross bred between a muskrat, bobcat and hyena! So you’re eating muskrat… just let that sink in!”

bacon

The man on the TV screen continued to rant, struggling against the police officers, who cuffed him and wrestled him into the back of the cruiser.

Sinead sipped her lukewarm coffee, too engrossed in the newscast to pour a fresh one.

 

Sinead knew the crazy man. She also knew he wasn’t as crazy as he looked.

* * *

Scott Parke was a former co-worker of Sinead’s, back in the early days of their careers. Fresh out of university and bursting with optimism, Sinead eagerly accepted a job offer from a large corporation. It all sounded so environmental, so save- the- planet perfect in her idealistic young mind. Even the name sounded environmentally friendly: Evergreen Research. She didn’t learn until later that Evergreen was owned and funded by Monsanto.

 

Those early days in the laboratories were filled with excitement and discovery, and it was there that she met Scott, also fresh out of university. Sinead truly believed she was making a difference, developing things that would change the world for the better. It wasn’t until reports of the negative effects of their work began to surface, that Sinead realized perhaps her employers weren’t the saints she thought they were.

 

 

When Sinead made the decision to part company with Evergreen, they demanded she sign a document bearing the Monsanto logo. It was a gag order, which prohibited her from divulging any information about the work conducted in their laboratories or using knowledge obtained therein to profit herself or others. She had no interest in what went on in those laboratories. She signed the document and moved on, eventually finding employment in genetic research for disease prevention.

Scott stayed on with Evergreen for a while after Sinead left, but she heard through a mutual friend that he had been fired for “ethical differences”, whatever that meant.

* * *

Five Years Later:

Sinead’s contract expired, and the company opted to not renew it. She decided to take some time off and enjoy a much-deserved holiday in Mexico.

One tequila-soaked night in Puerto Vallarta, Sinead spied a familiar face in the nightclub: Scott. He whooped when he saw her, and pulled her into an off-balance bear hug that nearly landed both of them on the floor. He slung an arm over her shoulder and sprayed her cheek with saliva as he shouted into her ear over the music.

“You gotta come see what I’m doing! I made a breakthrough like you never seen before. Makes those ashhats at Monshanto look like kinnergarten! This shit’ll revolutionize the food innustry. It’s gonna be huge! As shoon as the patents go through, I gonna be a billionaire, and I ain’t talkin’ peshos!”

Sinead wiped her cheek and adjusted her balance to counteract Scott’s drunken sway.

“Sounds interesting, but I’m on vacation. Taking kind of a hiatus from work.”

“Thass even better! I’m gonna need a partner when this shit breaks. I’m gonna be so busy. I’m sherious. You’d be perfect for the job. I’ll let ya in on the ground floor.”

“I admit I’m curious. Give me your number and I’ll look you up when I get back home.”

“No, you don’t unnerstand. It’s here. My lab. I live here now. Can’t do this in the U.S. Too many regulations. It would take years to get where I am now.”

“Your lab is here, in Mexico?”

“You betcher sweet ass, baby!”

“Then how can I say no? For old times’ sake.”

Scott raised his glass. “For old times’ sake!”

* * *

Scott’s “lab” was the second bedroom of a two-bedroom rented condo. It didn’t look much out of the ordinary, save for the occasional bug-hunting gecko. A row of mismatched refrigerators lined one wall of the room.

“I can’t wait to hear what you’re working on here,” Sinead said, peering into the room. She nodded toward the fridges. “I can’t imagine what those could be for.”

The effects of the previous night’s drinks; lingered in the dull throb behind her eyes and parched throat. Scott looked worse than she felt.

“I’m dying of thirst. Got anything to drink?” she asked.

“I got orange juice. He pointed at the kitchen. In the fridge.”

Sinead wandered into the kitchen, where she found a package of Solo cups on the counter next to a bottle each of tequila and gin. She poured a cup of orange juice and then added some tequila. What the hell, I’m on vacation, she thought.

Scott followed her into the kitchen and poured himself a similar drink, with both tequila and gin. Instead of returning to the lab, he went into the living room, where he plopped onto the couch with a weary sigh.

Sinead followed and took a seat at the opposite end and sipped her drink, waiting for him to talk.

“I don’t know how much you might have heard, but I left Monsanto due to some irreconcilable differences,” he began.

“I heard you were fired.”

“Same thing. Potato, potawto. Best thing that ever happened to me. I learned a lot working there, but of course you know we’re not allowed to talk about that.” He gave her a knowing wink.

“We’re also not allowed to apply any of their research in other projects.”

“I believe the gag order specifies that we’re forbidden to use knowledge gained while in their employ to further the exploits of other corporations… or some shit like that. Basically, it means we can’t divulge their trade secrets to their competitors.”

“But what does it say about becoming a competitor yourself?”

“Well, you can’t do that either, per se. Meaning that you can’t start a company and employ their knowledge in research and development of products similar to theirs. And of course, with all the regulations in the U.S. and FDA approval and all that shit, there’s no way you could do anything without the big M finding out.”

“But you aren’t in the U.S.”

“Bingo! I’m also not a competing corporation. I’m just a guy doing science projects in his back bedroom.”

“But what happens when you try to bring… whatever this is back into the U.S? You can’t get a patent based on someone else’s research.”

“I’m not. This is all mine. Yeah, I learned a lot working in those laboratories, but they can’t regulate what’s inside my head. I developed this all on my own, and none of it resembles anything those assholes are doing.”

“Somehow I think they’d find a way to claim it if they wanted it.” Sinead drained her cup. “Enough with the suspense. Let’s get to the part where you tell me exactly what you developed.”

“To put it simply, it’s food. I have developed a line of revolutionary new food products. Trendy stuff. Vegan, gluten-free, all that shit. Not processed, but grown. The granola crowd will go nuts for it, pun intended.”

“Like what?”

“Bacon seeds, for one.”

“Fuck off.”

“Seriously. C’mon, I’ll show you.”

Scott led the way to the lab-bedroom, where he opened a fridge at the far end of the row. Shelves with rows of fluorescent lighting filled the interior of the appliance. Sinead realized that it wasn’t being used for refrigeration, but as a sort of green house. Trays of small seedlings covered the first two shelves, and larger plants were housed on the lower racks. On closer inspection, Sinead recognized the leaves.

“Corn? You’re growing corn in a refrigerator.”

“Not just corn.” Scott closed the door and opened another, a couple of fridges down the row. Inside were cobs covered with a substance Sinead couldn’t identify. She looked at Scott for clarification. He grinned.

“I give you…” he tapped his fingers on the door, simulating a drum roll. “Bacon on the cob!”

“Bullshit.”

“I shit you not.” He removed one of the cobs from the shelf and held it up to the light. “It grows just like this. All you have to do is cook it.”

Tiny pale rolled-up buds covered the cob. He took one in his fingers and unrolled it, revealing to Sinead what appeared to be an ordinary slice of bacon. The grain of the meat, the fat, the color – all nearly perfect. It was perhaps a bit too uniform, like the vegan fake-bacon sold in stores, but it looked close enough to pass for the real thing. Sinead slid her fingers over it and gasped at the greasy texture.

“It feels real!” she whispered.

“It is real. Pretty cool, huh?”

“It’s edible?”

“Hell yeah! Just like the real deal. It’s delicious, low in calories, high in protein. Gluten-free, too. It’s grown, not raised. Nothing gets slaughtered.” He chuckled. “Except for the plant, of course.”

“So it’s vegan, too.”

“As vegan as a corn cob. Sure, I had to make a few modifications, and maybe there is some pig DNA in there, but that’s science. Ever wonder why vegans always seem so angry? I know I’d be pretty miserable in a life without bacon. They taste this, maybe they won’t be so angry, huh?”

“Wow. This is amazing. If it’s as good as you say, and it gets approval… you could be sitting on a gold mine here. But what if the FDA doesn’t approve it?”

“They will eventually. I’ll start growing it here. Americans will get wind of it after a few thousand tourists get a sample. Get the right billionaire to back it and badda-bing! Suddenly the FDA won’t have a problem with us bringing it into the U.S. And of course they will want it produced there, to corner the market.”

Scott moved to another fridge. “The Bacorn is just the start of it. I also have KFG, but still working the bugs out of it.”

“KFG?”

“Working title. Stands for Kentucky Fried Garbanzos. Modified chick-pea with eleven herbs and spices bred in. But it’s a magnet for fruit flies. Like I said, still working the bugs out.”

Sinead peered into the fridge. Pod-shaped crispy golden brown clumps hung from scrawny vines. A cloud of small black flies rose toward her face and as she waved them away her nostrils caught a delicious savory aroma.

“It smells like…it’s already cooked!”

“Yeah, I think this one is going to be a winner, but it’s not ready yet. We also have the Hamkins, which will require a bit more growing space than I have here, on account of the vines.”

Sinead concluded her tour of Scott’s refrigerators with a promise to consider his offer. She accepted his business card, which simply read: Scott Parke – Innovations in Eating, and an email address.

As much as she hated to admit, his offer was tempting. She’d spent all her professional life working for others, following instructions. This stimulated both her scientific and creative sides. Breaking new ground by designing never-before-seen products… it was why she had become a scientist.

This had endless potential. It could end world hunger, if the plants were hardy enough. If she took Scott’s offer, she could make him see the big picture. If plant-based meats could be engineered to grow on barren land, entire countries could be saved. Appeasing angry vegans was merely a bonus.

* * *

In the end, Sinead dodged a bullet. Her decision not to join Scott’s research “team” turned out to be a wise one. Scott did not get FDA approval for his products. It turned out people had an aversion to eating genetically engineered meat, even if it was grown organically. Supposedly “health-conscious” people preferred to eat substances processed in factories from unknown ingredients than something they could grow in their own gardens.

Stymied by legal channels, Scott brought his products into the U.S. illegally and grew them in secret. The problem was, he couldn’t mass-market any of it without giving up the secret of their origin. He marketed the stuff as manufactured corn-based products and sold them at hippie festivals and farm markets, but eventually the FDA caught up with him. When they raided his greenhouses, the scandal broke internationally.

What they found… Sinead wasn’t surprised, given Scott’s mental state at the time of his arrest.

There were the Hamkins he’d mentioned, growing on vines like pumpkins. They looked like a whole pig, minus the innards. The torso was solid, smoky meat.

The KFG had evolved from fried chicken pods into whole pre-seasoned chickens, which solved the pest problem by feeding on the bugs. The disturbing part was the “chicken” had the head of a gecko.

There were other things, the media declined to mention all of them, but Sinead heard through a source in the scientific community that beef and lamb had been involved as well.

The public was outraged, and of courts the ethical argument made headlines: Were they plant or animal? Did they have consciousness? More importantly, was this food truly vegan? Scott argued that it was, since it was plant-based.

Sinead was shocked when they announced the charges, which weren’t what she had expected.

Scott was charged with two offences:

The first was violation of FDA regulations by creating and selling unapproved food substances. For that, he received a fine and probation.

The second was more serious, and it involved a lawsuit levied by their previous employer, Evergreen Research. Scott was charged with theft of intellectual property and breach of the gag order he had signed upon his departure.

Evergreen accused him of stealing the formulas for his products from their company. Their lawyers stated they were prepared to provide proof in a court of law that those products had been created in their laboratories several years earlier.

 

~*~

Copyright © 2018 Mandy White

 

 

A Sim-Ple Life

Posted: February 5, 2018 in Uncategorized

Have you ever had the feeling your life was out of control?

Like you were going through the motions, puppet-like, guided by some unseen hand of fate, or God, or whatever you want to call it?

Cheryl had felt that way all of her life. She had never felt in control of anything, as far back as she could remember. The worst part was the way her memory continually failed her. It grew worse every day. Cheryl was afraid; she feared she was losing her mind.

She found herself in the most bizarre situations, doing strange, inexplicable things after each memory lapse. She would set out to accomplish an everyday task and then would find herself standing somewhere, mind blank, at a loss as to what she should be doing.

Her surroundings changed daily and she blamed her faltering memory. She would know for certain where something was, but when she went to find it, everything would be different than she remembered.

Cheryl’s home was an ever-changing enigma. Every morning she woke to find new furniture, different wallpaper and a swimming pool with a new look. The pool changed shape on a regular basis; sometimes it was kidney shaped, sometimes square and sometimes rectangle. Sometimes a hot tub graced one end of the pool, sometimes two or more tubs appeared, as if by magic. Even the layout of the house changed from one day to the next. There were times when entire rooms moved or disappeared altogether. Cheryl never saw a carpenter or signs of construction, yet she saw a different house each day.

Remembering simple things like the location of doorways was a new challenge every day. Once, Cheryl couldn’t find the entrance to the bathroom even though it had been there the previous day. She ran from room to room searching for the toilet, bursting at the seams. She finally relieved herself on the bedroom floor because she couldn’t think of a better solution. The next day, the bathroom reappeared exactly where it had always been and Cheryl couldn’t understand for the life of her why she hadn’t been able to find it.

And then there was the time she almost drowned in the swimming pool. She climbed into the pool using the ladder, and then the ladder disappeared. One moment it was there, bolted to the cement at the side of the pool but the next time she looked, the ladder was gone, like it had never existed. Unable to think of any other way to get out of the pool, Cheryl kept swimming laps, looking for the ladder. Back and forth she swam until she was weak from exhaustion. She was on the verge of drowning when the ladder reappeared before her eyes exactly in the same spot. Not one but two matching ladders, firmly bolted to either side of the pool where she couldn’t possibly have missed them.

The other members of the household didn’t seem to notice anything unusual about the house nor did they care about Cheryl’s bizarre behavior. As far as she was aware, her housemates were no relation to her. She didn’t know anything about them. Household members were also subject to change without notice and none of the others seemed bothered by this. The other residents of the mysterious house spent their time engrossed in various activities, except when eating, sleeping or the occasional interaction with Cheryl. She had no idea what any of them were talking about. They all spoke gibberish, and Cheryl played along by replying in the same gibberish.

Cheryl’s current housemates were a young man named Damien, a woman named Tiffany and a little boy named Steven. The man and woman were not a couple, neither of them appeared to be a parent of the boy, and for some reason it was all normal and acceptable.

Cheryl spent her days swimming laps in the pool, painting endless canvasses of abstract art and singing melodies to songs with no lyrics. She had no job that she could remember. In fact, she couldn’t even remember her own last name!

She existed from day to day, repeating the same mundane activities; eating when she was hungry and sleeping when she was tired. Sometimes she slept alone and sometimes cuddled up next to a random member of the household.

How long had things been this way? She couldn’t remember a time when things were different. Cheryl couldn’t remember her childhood or being any other age than her current one. She couldn’t remember living in any other home besides this one.

She wondered if she had some sort of mental illness. Were her housemates aware that something was wrong with her? Maybe they knew she was a nutcase and weren’t telling her! Maybe they were all having laughs at her expense, mocking her by speaking nonsense words, knowing that she would reply in the same fashion. She supposed she should seek professional help from a doctor of some sort but had no idea how to go about it.

Cheryl dove into the pool and swam laps to ease her worried mind. Swimming was something she did every day and it always relaxed her.

When she tired of swimming, she climbed out of the water to find Damien standing on the pool deck watching her.

“The sun, it go kee-kah-ka-bee,” Damien said.

Cheryl laughed and nodded in agreement.

“Ah, a ham a hizza frazzirat!” she replied with a cheerful wave as she walked past him. She wasn’t in the mood for a conversation. She was hungry and needed to find something to eat.

Cheryl wasn’t very good at cooking. She usually foraged in the fridge for something already cooked, to avoid using the stove. She searched the fridge and found nothing that didn’t require cooking. She stamped her foot in frustration and swore under her breath.

“Hem a flama huzzit!”

She selected a food item that looked potentially tasty and placed it in a frying pan. After dousing it with cooking oil, she turned the burner on as high as possible to speed the cooking process. It was taking too long to cook. She stirred the pan vigorously in her impatience.

All at once the oil in the pan ignited, sending angry fingers of flame toward the ceiling. Cheryl slapped at the pan in a lame attempt to extinguish the blaze but succeeded only in catching her hand on fire. The flames spread to her clothing, racing up her arm until her entire blouse was burning. Her hair caught fire next. A human torch, Cheryl ran in frantic circles around the kitchen, shrieking and waving her arms.

Outside, Damien did a slow backstroke in the pool, oblivious to the fact that one of his housemates was burning to death in the kitchen. In another room, Steven and Tiffany laughed and joked, unaware that their gibberish was being drowned out by Cheryl’s dying wails.

 

* * *

 

After dinner, Jeremy rushed to finish his homework. He had left his computer running with the game loaded and he was anxious to see what had transpired in his absence. He woke the screen up from its sleep mode and slapped his palm to his forehead when he saw the carnage in the kitchen.

“Aw, nuts! My stupid Cheryl Sim went and burned herself to death! I knew I shoulda locked her outta the kitchen while I was away!”

The Sims was Jeremy’s favorite computer game. He had all the expansion packs and plenty of cheat codes to give him limitless hours of play – redesigning and recreating the virtual environment in which his computer-generated characters lived. The characters were always a learning experience. They always turned out to be a bit unpredictable, no matter how carefully he designed them. If you endowed a Sim with too much of one characteristic and not enough of another you’d wind up with a dumbass who’d end up getting killed.

Take Cheryl, for example. He had made her athletic and artistically skilled but obviously a little too much so because she turned out to be a bit of an airhead. She had no culinary skills and not a shred of common sense to solve even the simplest problem. She was the proverbial turkey who would drown looking up at the rain.

Jeremy sighed and set out to create a replacement for Cheryl. The new one would be able to cook like a master chef but he would have to make sacrifices in other areas. Cutting back on artistic ability, sense of humor and athleticism would make her a bit dull but maybe this one would live a little longer.

The creators of games like The Sims had done some pretty cool things with artificial intelligence, but in the opinion of that particular twelve-year-old, they still had a long way to go.

 

Published in Dysfictional: Short Stories for Twisted Minds

Copyright © 2012 Mandy White

#ShortStodySunday

The Art of Bathing

Posted: January 29, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

Takinbubble-bath-day-ftrg a bath. It’s a simple luxury that most women love, and many take for granted. I know I used to.

That was before I moved into this house.

Now, it’s a rare treat to soak in a luxurious bubble bath with a good book, and even then the clock is always ticking and I usually don’t get past more than a paragraph or two before my time is up.

And before I can take my bath I must scrub.

The tub and floor must be scrubbed and sanitized before I even dare to take my shoes off.

I start at the door with a mop and bucket of scalding hot bleach water. I work my way into the room, scrubbing the smears of blood from the floor until the entire room smells like a public swimming pool, complete with the added aroma of urine. Once I reach the window I can open it to air out the room while I scrub the piss stains from around the base of the toilet. Last of all, I use the mop to clean the outside of the toilet before dumping the bucket into the bowl. Finally the room starts to smell clean.

After that, I turn my attention to the tub itself. It too must be bleached, but first I remove the heavy-duty shower chair and the festering green rubber germ factory that the old woman calls a bathmat. I have tried to tell her that she needs to replace the mat but she won’t listen. I repeat my scrubbing routine, using a clean rag that I have brought with me along with the rest of my bath supplies. I will throw the rag in the garbage afterward; the thought of having it share the washing machine with the rest of the laundry turns my stomach.

Scrub scrub scrub.

I clean the inside of the tub and all surrounding surfaces with a solution of more bleach than water. When I’m satisfied that it’s finally clean, I check my watch.

Fifteen minutes have already elapsed. I have another twenty minutes, thirty if I’m lucky.

Tick tick tock tick… the clock is always ticking.

As my bath fills I can finally unpack my bag of bath supplies; shampoo, conditioner, loofah, soap and razor… typical stuff that most women keep in their bathrooms. I can’t keep the stuff in this bathroom because it’s not mine. I have a bathroom downstairs but it only has a tiny shower stall. I hate showers; I’ve always loved my baths. The only bathroom in the house that has a bathtub belongs to the old woman. It’s filled with old-person stuff; bottles and bottles of prescription pills, vitamins, laxatives and antacids. My scented soaps, lavender bubble bath and pink loofah would have no place in here.

Finally my bath is ready; steamy and inviting with fluffy white mountains of lavender scented bubbles.

Mmmm!

It’s a tiny slice of heaven, even if it’s only for a short time. I ease myself into the water and dunk my head under. It’s all worth it; even if I have to spend the same amount of time scrubbing as I do bathing. It’s all I get, so I have to cherish it.

As I reach for my washcloth I notice something on the edge of the tub.

NO! Please, No! Please don’t let it be…!

On closer inspection my fears are confirmed. The small kinky grey hair could be none other than…

A PUBE!

I shudder with revulsion as I stand up and reach for a square of toilet paper so I can remove the offending hair, which undoubtedly came from the old woman.

The elderly lady with whom I must share this bathtub is the owner of the house, who hired me to cook, clean and generally help her as her health continues to fail.

I try to remember that she is a woman like me, that she was young once but my mind sometimes has trouble making the connection.

She is a human being, and her name is Mary.

Once, she was young and thin and happy.

Now, she is old, fat and dying.

Instead of the pretty dark-haired woman pictured in the old black and white photos on the mantle, I now see a mountain of overflowing diabetic flesh, weighing in at nearly four hundred pounds.

Her legs are surreal; prehistoric tree trunks with flaky, scaly bark and bulbous, swollen roots for feet. She doesn’t wear shoes unless she leaves the house because she can’t reach her feet to put them on. Her bloated ankles appear to be overflowing the feet, which are now completely numb due to advancing neuropathy. The soles of the feet are cracked open in several places and never heal because there is so little circulation at this point that the flesh is nearly dead. Small smears of blood on the floor follow her every step around the house.

She is an amputation waiting to happen and there is nothing I can do to change it.

A perpetual infection lurks beneath the surface; her doctor maintains futile hope that it will succumb to the endless barrage of powerful antibiotic pills he keeps prescribing.

But the doctor knows the truth.

Everyone knows.

Even Mary knows that it’s just a matter of time before first one foot, then the other will have to be removed to prevent the spread of gangrene. At this point it’s simply a matter of keeping the feet attached for as long as possible. If she loses her feet I will no longer be able to take care of her.

As anyone who has seen advanced Type 2 Diabetes in action knows, once the amputations start, it’s the beginning of the end. First the foot, then the lower leg, and then the thigh… Once they have removed all of the leg and part of the ass, there’s nothing left to amputate and death follows soon afterward.

The old woman must be aware of this – how can she not be? I think she’s either heavily in denial or she has simply decided to go out happy. There isn’t any other way to explain her artery-choking diet of deep-fried, pan-fried, chicken-fried, fried-fried foods. Not a scrap of healthy food passes her lips if she can help it. She averages a six-pack of ‘diet’ soda per day and never drinks water, except to swallow pills. (and sometimes not even then.) I use my grocery allowance to buy healthy foods: vegetables, whole grains, fish and chicken. Mary orders pizzas and other takeout foods. She also chooses her own ‘groceries’ and has them delivered: cookies, doughnuts, jujubes, chocolates and candies. She crams them into her mouth by the handful, followed by increasingly larger doses of insulin to combat the rush of sugar. Her body has developed such a tolerance to insulin that it barely has any effect, even at doses that would be fatal to an ordinary person. Mary is playing with fire and I am powerless to stop her.

I mentioned that I cook for her. I TRY to cook for her, but if the food isn’t fried or sugary she turns her nose up at it. I try to avoid cooking the foods she wants. Sometimes, I wait until she takes a nap, then prepare healthy, Diabetic-friendly meals. I disappear before she wakes up, leaving her to fend for herself for a while. She then must either fry something by herself or suffer through vegetables and brown rice. Sometimes it works, but not often.

Mary’s family doesn’t visit her anymore because they don’t want to be bothered with her. To them, she is a burden and an embarrassment. It’s really quite sad. She has nobody but me to rely on, and I’m failing her miserably due to her refusal to care about her own health.

The reason I must scrub and sanitize the bathroom before I use it is her feet. Those horrid, decaying, borderline gangrenous feet. Every day she soaks them in a foot bath that I prepare for her – a solution of Epsom salts, iodine and warm water – in hopes that the infection will recede and the cracks will stop spreading. It’s mostly a futile exercise at this point but it’s better than the alternative, which is to do nothing.

Yes, she should be in a hospital but she refuses to go and has made it very clear that she will fire me if I attempt to have her taken to the hospital. Losing this job might sound like a blessing in disguise but then what would happen to Mary? The hospital won’t keep her against her will, and who would take care of her?

Certainly not her relatives.

Those vultures are hanging back, waiting for her to die so they can swoop in, exterminate the vermin, (me – domestic help no longer needed) loot her possessions and sell her house. Not that I care if I’m thrown out of here after her death; it’s just repulsive, the way they think they’re entitled to anything of hers after they have shunned her and left her to die alone.

When her daily foot bath is finished, I carry the plastic tub of water to the bathroom, where I pour the toxic bacterial stew down the bathtub drain. The water is cloudy and I try not to look at it. I discard my surgical gloves, then change my clothes and wash my hands up past the elbows afterward, followed by a healthy dose of hand sanitizer.

I’m not a germophobe. What I am is well aware of the terrifying ‘super bugs’ that have been emerging in recent years; strains of once-familiar bacteria that have mutated into antibiotic-resistant and potentially deadly versions of their former selves.

I’ve seen the antibiotics Mary is taking. Powerful stuff. I can tell that her doctor is worried. God only knows what ball-busting bionic bacteria might be lurking on her skin, especially on the legs and feet where too little blood flows and the immune system and antibiotics simply can’t reach.

I’m no dummy – I know I’m bathing in the same tub where I dump that septic soup, but the alternative is to dump it in the kitchen sink, where I wash dishes and prepare food.

So I bleach. And I scrub.

I don’t know why it never occurred to me until today that I should have been dumping the foot bath down the toilet.

I raise my head out of the steaming bath. The bubbles are gone, which means my time is probably up. I check my clock.

Sure enough, time is up.

As with many elderly people, bladder weakness is an issue with Mary so the time I can safely occupy her bathroom is limited. If she happens to wake, she will make a beeline for the bathroom. If I hear her thundering down the hallway and I’m still in the tub, there will be trouble and I will have a mess to mop up on top of it.

I pull the plug and am about to stand up when I realize that I still have some conditioner in my hair. I lay back down in the water, rinsing my hair as the tub drains. I lay there for a moment longer, savoring the last bit of my sultry paradise before I have to get out and rejoin the real world.

I sit up when I notice that the water hasn’t gone down much at all. The bath is still full.

I jump out quickly and reach for my towel.

I get dressed, keeping an eye on the tub, wishing it would hurry up and drain. I don’t want to deal with a clog after getting all nice and clean and relaxed.

Once fully dressed, I can see that I must face the fact that the drain is definitely clogged. It was probably a ball of hair or something. Ick.

I grab the plunger and work it up and down a few times until finally the water begins to drain. Whatever was plugging it either worked its way down or came back up into the tub.

As the water grows shallower, I see an object floating in the bottom of the tub; most likely the thing responsible for clogging the drain… the thing that I have essentially, been bathing with ever since I pulled the plug.

As the remainder of the water disappears down the drain, I begin to gag, then rush to the toilet and spew my guts. When I finish puking, I am moving immediately, running for the bleach and wondering if there is enough hand sanitizer to cover my entire body.

 

I will gather up the nerve to remove the toe from the bathtub later.

Keep Close my Yellow Dog

Posted: January 29, 2018 in Uncategorized

Reginald trembled.

“What’s wrong, Reg?” I asked.

“I’m not entirely sure…” he began, then vomited his recently-eaten dinner onto the floor. “Oh my… I’m terribly sorry,” he apologized. “I don’t know what came over me. Here, I’ll clean it up.” He started lapping the puke up off the floor.

“Gross! Reg – NO!” I cried, running to grab some paper towels.

roscoe cute

 

Reginald had a brilliant mind, and a witch couldn’t ask for a better familiar than the little yellow dog, who had once been a powerful wizard and lord of the manor in which we currently resided. But alas, his canine nature still took over sometimes.

 

After cleaning up what remained of Reggie’s mess, we turned our attention back to the issue at hand.

The angry woman upstairs hadn’t slowed one bit since her very unwelcome arrival. I could hear the sounds of her tantrum as she raged overhead, her footsteps thundering from room to room on the main floor of the house. Dishes rattled on the shelves as she slammed cupboard doors in her frenzied search for whatever it was she was looking for. The ceiling over my head muted her furious mutterings so that I could only hear snippets of what she was saying but the message was clear. She was displeased with every single thing she laid eyes on, especially me. My very presence in the house infuriated her. Each time she neared the stairwell that led downstairs to my quarters, where Reginald and I had been hiding since her arrival, something kindled her rage anew and set off another slamming, screaming tantrum.

The fact that she had arrived at all meant my banishing spell had been

ineffective. This puzzled Reggie, since banishing was one of his specialties and he had helped me cast the spell. He had been feeling ill since her arrival and I knew it had to be con

nected somehow. We were beginning to suspect that the spell might have been turned back on us. Her energy was apparently toxic to Reggie but didn’t seem to have any adverse effects on me. I noticed however, that my energy didn’t appear to be doing her much good. I wasn’t sure why, but something about me seemed to repel her, which suited me fine because it kept her at bay, upstairs and away from our

 

quarters. A temporary solution, but not ideal by any means.

If a banishing spell didn’t work on her, then what? A binding? Or…

Reginald glanced up at me from beneath the fringe of golden fluff that served as eyebrows, his chestnut eyes filled with the sadness that accompanies generations of wisdom. He shook his furry head slowly.

Damn that dog! He licked his nuts purely for entertainment and thoug

 

ht nothing of eating his own barf, yet he always seemed to know what I was thinking.

“Miranda, no,” he said. “First of all, you know the consequences of

 

manipulating the dark forces. And second, it won’t work. Hexes only work on mortal beings.”

“What are you saying, Reg?” I asked, even though I already knew what the little yellow dog was getting at. I just wanted to hear it from him.

“She’s not human.”

“Then what is she?” Reggie’s theory made sense. It explained why our fail-safe banishing spell had failed in this instance. The spell only worked on humans and, to a lesser degree, on animals.

“I’m nmff nmfff mrtnfffnff,” Reginald said.

“Would you please look at me when you’re talking to me?” I scolded.

 

“Sorry,” the dog said, pulling his nose from where it had been momentarily buried in his not-so-private parts. “At first,” he continued, licking his lips, “I suspected she might be a succubus because of her humanoid façade. But now I know that’s not the case. A lower entity like a succubus would not have any effect on my powers. We are dealing with something far worse. And yes, you are correct. She wants you dead.”

I rubbed my arms to quell the gooseflesh that had risen – a sure sign that my familiar was speaking the truth. There was no doubt she wanted me dead; I’d suspected that from the beginning but up until that moment I’d felt confident, cocky even, that I could handle the likes of her.

She was the estranged stepdaughter of Harold, my former master. Harold was a kindly old wizard who had employed my mother before me and her mother before her, as domestic servants and apprentices. It might seem strange to an outsider that I would choose a life of servitude in these modern times, but it was the tradition of my family and the wizard was kind and fair. He had taken me under his wing at an early age and mentored me in the magickal arts, having apparently seen the same potential in me that he had known in my mother and grandmother. Harold had been my guardian since I was ten years old, after my mother was killed in an auto accident. Harold owned the ancient mansion and its expansive grounds, which had been passed down through his family for generations since Reginald’s time. In keeping with tradition, Harold’s next of kin was to inherit his home and all of his possessions after his death.

Wherein lay the problem – Harold had no children related to him by blood and he had outlived all of his other relations, having died at the age of 125. He did, however, have two stepdaughters by his late wife Esmerelda, who, according to Harold, was a sweet and loving woman until after their wedding. As soon as the honeymoon was over, she made an instant transformation into an evil, screeching battleaxe just like the one who now raged overhead.

The stepdaughters, who had not visited Harold even once since their mother’s death, intended to walk in and take over executorship of the estate because they were ‘related’ to the old wizard by marriage. The moment he died, the man who had meant nothing to them suddenly became ‘dear old Dad’. They became the grieving ‘daughters’, sucking up condolences from Harold’s acquaintances like the bloodthirsty leeches that they were. Reginald and I were left to grieve for our beloved mentor in private.

The stepdaughters strongly objected to the terms of the simple Will Harold had left. He had made provisions for me and all of my descendants in his Will, stating that we would always have a home and place of employment in the manor for as long as it remained standing or our family line died out, whichever came first. Until that time, the house was not to be sold, rented or renovated. Erin, the screaming stepdaughter, could not evict me nor could she sell the house as long as I, or one of my offspring, (of which I had none) were alive. Which was why she wanted me dead.

For the first time since I had accidentally conjured a shit-demon from the sewers of Hell, I felt genuine fear. The wizard had taught me that fear would defeat me faster than even the most formidable of foes and had spent years conditioning me to be fearless. I had heeded his teachings carefully and in my bravado my power grew.

With Reginald as an ally there was no spell I could not cast, no charm I could not repel and no mistake I could not undo. He was an ancient soul and a very powerful wizard in his own right. I had no idea how old the little dog was, but Reggie had been with me for as long as I could remember. Formerly known as Lord Reginald, he was the original owner of the manor and of course, one of Harold’s ancestors. The estate had been passed down through the generations from one descendant to another but the bloodline ended with the old man. Harold’s first wife had died without bearing him any children. His second wife died soon after the wedding, leaving behind the two greedy stepdaughters who were now trying to lay claim to the estate. The real father of the two girls was a mysterious dark wizard from somewhere in Europe, where the older sister currently resided.

Now Erin had returned, claiming to be the one chosen as executor of her “father’s” estate. She had commandeered the entire upper section of the house, leaving Reg and I banished to our downstairs quarters. She was livid about something. I could hear bits and pieces of her mutterings as she stormed around and slammed doors, apparently still searching for something. She ranted about being “attacked” and something about “the chosen one” and “absolute power”.

I didn’t know what any of it meant, but I had a feeling that if she found what she was looking for it would mean trouble for Reggie and me. All I knew for certain was that she was dangerous and we would have to be on guard at all times. I had already suggested to him the possibility of us leaving but he refused. This had been his home since he had staked his claim on the land and built the home back in 1672. No psychotic demon bitch was going to drive him out of it.

The problem was, how did we get rid of her?

 

* * *

 

The second stepdaughter, Maria, arrived the following week. She appeared to be the polar opposite of her sister –articulate and soft-spoken with a British accent that made her sound cultured and snobbish. She seemed quite reasonable but it was all just a façade, which I saw through immediately. Her invitation to come upstairs and join her for tea appeared to be a friendly gesture but I was immediately on guard. I wasn’t stupid. She didn’t want my friendship any more than I wanted her and her screeching shrew of a sister in my home.

I wasn’t about to eat or drink anything offered by those two vipers, so I concocted a little invisibility potion with Reggie’s help. I dropped my teaspoon on the floor and politely asked Maria for another one. While she was gone I dripped the potion over my tea and scone, making it appear as if I had consumed them.

When she noticed my empty teacup and plate, she offered more but I declined, then the interrogation began. I suspected the refreshments she had tried to trick me into consuming probably contained a potion or spell designed to act as truth serum.

She was a master manipulator but I played along with her little game, curious as to what information she was trying to extract from me. She asked me about myself and about my family – did I have any siblings, cousins, uncles or aunts? I guardedly explained that I was an only child and the last of my family since my mother’s death.

“And what about my father?” she inquired. “Did dear Harold ever mention any cousins or nephews I might not have known about?”

Her referral to Harold as her ‘father’ pissed me off because she was no relation to him whatsoever. I knew Reg was listening quietly from the staircase.

“No,” I replied coolly, “Your STEP father did not mention any other relatives other than those you would already know about. Can I ask why you would want to know?” I wanted to slap the fake smile off of her duplicitous face.

“No reason, dahling,” she crooned. “I just want to ensure that all parties get their share of any inheritance they may be entitled to.”

“If I understand correctly,” I said, “Harold’s Will was quite clear and simple. I don’t see what you would find confusing about it.”

She reached over and patted my hand in a condescending manner that made me want to conjure another shit-demon just for her. “No need to fret, my dear. It’s just a lot of complicated legal jargon that I wouldn’t expect you to understand.”

What the hell did she think I was, the village idiot?

“I’m sure I understand just fine,” I replied.

“Sure you do, dahling. Sure you do,” she purred. “There is, however, one wee issue that may need to be addressed, and that is the quality of care my father was receiving prior to his death. Erin and I have reason to believe that there was a certain level of neglect that may have contributed to his untimely demise. You understand, of course, that we will need to have our attorney look into this.”

“What exactly are you implying?” I snapped. “That I caused his death due to neglect? First of all, the man was 125 years old, which is admirable even considering the fact that he was a wizard. Secondly, how the hell do either of you think you can know anything about what went on here, since neither one of you bothered to visit him even once? I’m SURE the level of care he was receiving was TOP priority for both of you!”

I couldn’t stand being in her presence a moment longer. I stood to leave.

“Thank you for the lovely cup of tea,” I said, my voice dripping with sarcasm, “but I really must get back to work. I have a million things to do.”

“Yes, yes,” she sighed, “I’m sure you are quite the busy little lass.” She waved her hand at me as if swatting away a fly. “Off you go, then.”

I fumed as I made my way back downstairs. How dare she dismiss me like a common household servant in my own home? Frankly, I preferred the screaming banshee to this one. At least the banshee spoke her mind. I furiously swept my fingernails across the stone wall of the stairwell, sending a spray of blue and green sparks in my wake. It wasn’t good to lose control of my anger this way. The last time someone had pissed me off that much, my ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriend had grown a curly tail like a pig.

I closed the door to my room and threw myself on the bed. Reg hopped up and curled up beside me.

“I hate that sneaky, underhanded skank!” I raged. “Who does she think she is, treating me like I’m something stuck to the bottom of her shoe?”

Reg leaned over and licked my cheek, then sighed and rested his nose on his paws. “I know, milady. I know. We will get through this somehow. There has to be a way. Harold never would have left us without an avenue of escape. We just need to find it. He was a crafty one, you know. He wouldn’t have left the solution in plain sight for just anyone to find.”

I reached over and scratched between his ears. “You’re so wise, Reggie. If you weren’t a dog, I’d marry you.”

“I could accuse you of species discrimination, you know,” he teased.

I laughed and hugged the little dog. “You always know how to make me laugh. Thanks!” I kissed his wet nose, then wiped my mouth. “Ew! I keep forgetting where that that nose has been!”

“A dog’s mouth is supposed to be the cleanest thing there is,” he replied, feigning indignation.

“Yeah, you keep believing that, fur-face,” I laughed.

With my best friend curled in my arms, we both fell asleep.

 

* * *

 

“Miranda!” The voice was a mere whisper. Then it came again, louder this time. ‘Miranda!”

I sat up, rubbing my eyes sleepily although I had a feeling I was still asleep. In an instant I was on my feet, but I didn’t remember actually standing up.

“Miranda!” The voice was more commanding, and seemed to be coming from the other side of my bedroom door. I crept to the door, looking over my shoulder for Reggie, who was still curled up on the bed asleep. That was strange, because the dog’s sensitive ears surely would have picked up any sound sooner than my human ones.

I opened the door, noting the absence of the usual grating creak of the metal hinge. I was enveloped in silence; even my footsteps were silent.

Now what?

“Miranda!” Right beside me this time.

I whirled to face the speaker and came face to face with none other than Harold, the elderly wizard.

“Harold!” I whispered, falling into his arms purely from reflex.

The old man’s embrace was surprisingly solid, but he felt cold to the touch.

“Miranda, dear, dear girl,” he said softly, holding me in his icy arms.

“I’ve missed you so much, Harold!” I wiped tears from my cheeks, hating myself for crying. He’d always taught me to be strong and here I was letting him down during what might be my last opportunity to see him.

“There, now,” he soothed. “You needn’t fret, my child. All is not lost. I made plans well in advance to ensure that no one can harm you.”

“But now that you’re gone, everything is different! Those two women are evil! They don’t care what you wanted, or what your Will says. They intend to take everything and force me and Reg out into the street!”

“I would never allow that to happen. I’m surprised at you, Miranda. Haven’t you any faith in me at all? Everything you need is right here. Everything will be all right, I promise. But,” he hesitated, waving a finger in front of my face, “in order for things to work out, you will have to make a decision, and it may not be an easy one for you to make.”

“Just tell me what I need to do, and I will do it!” I said, “I don’t care what it is! I will do it!”

Harold smiled, his bright blue eyes twinkling as much in death as they had in life. “Ah, you may say that now, but you don’t yet know what will be asked of you. You are a strong girl; I raised you that way, as your dear departed mother desired. Your strength may become your downfall. Think carefully on this decision.”

“I will do whatever is required of me. I will do anything for you, Harold!” I insisted.

“We shall see…” he laughed brightly. “We shall see…” His apparition was beginning to fade. I could see through him now, to the stone wall beyond, where he was reaching for a sharp rectangular stone. His hand passed through the stone as I watched, then he stepped through the wall and vanished.

I sat up in bed, a sob still caught in my throat. My cheeks were wet with real tears I had shed during the dream. Reg lifted his head, instantly alert.

“What’s the matter, Miranda? A bad dream?”

“Yes… well, no, not exactly,” I replied. “Upsetting, yes. Reg, I saw Harold!”

The dog’s ears pricked up and he cocked his shaggy head, giving me his undivided attention. “Really? Did he say anything to you?”

“Yes! In fact, I think he was trying to show me something. He said I would have a difficult decision to make.” I bounced out of bed and dashed to the door without bothering to put on a robe or slippers. The coldness of the stone floor went unnoticed beneath my feet as I flung the door open and made my way to the spot where I had last seen Harold in my dream. Reg followed at my heels.

“He was right here,” I said, “and there was a stone… there! This one!” I touched the sharp rectangular stone and discovered it felt loose. I wiggled it and then pulled. It slid out, revealing a hidden space in the wall. Inside the space was a plain brown envelope. I pulled out the envelope. It was sealed with a glob of wax bearing the wizard’s insignia. Harold had always been kind of old-school with that sort of thing: his wax seal; his insistence that I spell the word magic with a ‘k’ on the end, like the old-world Pagans did…

Reg stood on his hind legs and sniffed at the envelope. “It’s definitely from Harold,” he confirmed. “No one but him has touched it.”

I replaced the stone and we scampered back to the privacy of our bedroom to open it.

Inside was a letter written in Harold’s handwriting, along with two additional sheets of blank paper.

What the hell?

I read the letter aloud to Reggie:

“Dearest Miranda,

If you are reading this, then it means I am no longer in the land of the living. I’m guessing that my two wretched stepdaughters have arrived and are trying to lay claim to that which is not theirs.

They are powerful entities, make no mistake. Regular magick will not work on them, as I’m guessing you’ve already discovered.

Their father, Vernon, is a formidable demon descended from Lucifer himself and it is from him that they get their powers. Erin, as you know her, is actually one of several incarnations of Eris, the Goddess of Chaos. Maria, the manipulator, was once an irresistible siren who lured many a sailor to his death back in the old days. Neither of them is to be trusted, but Maria is especially treacherous because she is very skilled at gaining the trust of her victims before destroying them. Because I know exactly who and what these two women are, I possess the ability to render them powerless.

Miranda, dearest child. I love you like my own and it is to you alone that I will pass this knowledge. These evil witches can and will be stopped and it is up to you to do it.

But first, my child, I must let you in on a secret.

The Last Will and Testament that Erin and Maria have is a fake. The real one is here, in this envelope. My attorney also has a copy but like this one, it will not become visible until the charm I have placed on it is removed. You are the only one with the power to remove the charm and enact the real Will.

In order to do that, I will first need a promise from you, and the decision will not be an easy one.

My stepdaughters believe that there is no legitimate heir to my estate but I tell you now, that is not the case. I have a son from my first marriage. My second wife Esmerelda despised him and sought to eliminate him from the moment she married me to ensure that her daughters would inherit my estate when I died.

At her request, I sent my son away to boarding school, never to return. I told my wife that he had contracted pneumonia while at school and died. It was a lie, but she believed it. In order to protect my only son and my family’s lineage, I lied about his death and sacrificed a lifetime of fatherhood to a wonderful child. I regret every day that I couldn’t be his father, but you must understand that I did it out of love. It was the only way I knew of to protect him from the evil that had infiltrated my family.

Now, it is time for my son to step forward and claim his birthright, but in order to ensure that he is safe from the clutches of another evil harridan such as the one I married, I have already chosen a bride for him. She is kind and pure of heart, and at his side, they will carry on my family name with pride.

Miranda, you are betrothed to my son. But I will not force you to marry him against your will. I will not infringe on your free will, for as you know, that is not how positive magick works. YOU must make the decision.

I ask you now, are you willing to accept your betrothal and marry a man you have never met? If your answer is yes, my two wretched stepdaughters will never bother you again. If you choose not to, I will not love you any less and will respect your decision. But I will be powerless to protect you from them.

If you agree, simply sign the bottom of this page… in your own blood, of course. Then, you must burn this piece of paper.”

 

* * *

 

I looked at Reggie, who gazed back at me with those soulful brown eyes I had grown to love so much.

“What should I do, Reg?” I asked, though I already knew what the answer would be.

“As Harold said, Miranda, it is your decision and yours alone,” the dog said.

“There is no other way,” I said, reaching for my Athame, the ceremonial dagger I kept on my altar. I sliced my index finger, allowing the blood to flow onto the bottom of the page, then used the same finger to write a rudimentary signature. I held the paper over a candle flame. It burned about halfway, then vanished in a shower of sparks, leaving not a single trace of ash.

“So now what?” I wondered aloud.

“Miranda, look!” Reg whispered.

The two blank pages were no longer blank. I picked up the first and read the words, Last Will and Testament at the top.

“It’s the Will!” I gasped. “The real one!”

“What’s this?” Reg asked, nuzzling the second page with his nose. “It looks like a spell!”

“It does indeed! I bet this is the spell needed to banish those two!” I looked at Reg with a sly smile. “What do you say, puppy-dog? It can’t be any worse than a shit-demon!”

“With those two shit-demons upstairs, I say let’s do it!” Reg grinned as only a dog can, his long tongue lolling out the side of his furry mouth.

 

* * *

 

We read the spell carefully to ensure we didn’t make any mistakes. We painstakingly gathered the ingredients, set up the right number and color of candles and cast the circle as precisely as I ever had.

Into the cauldron went various herbs and a few rather obscure ingredients, a splash of water from the pond and three hairs each from me and Reg. Together we chanted the strange incantation then closed our eyes and waited for the outcome.

There was a flash of heat and the smell of sulfur but we kept our eyes tightly closed in accordance with the instructions of the spell as unknown forces swirled around us.

Finally all was silent.

“Miranda?” Reg whispered. “Are you all right?”

“Yes. Is it over?”

“I think so,” he said, “but I feel kind of strange. My collar is too tight.”

“What do you mean?” I asked, alarmed. “Are you ok, Reg?” I opened my eyes, slowly at first, then gaped in awe at the sight before me.

My little yellow dog was gone. Where Reg had been sat a young man with blond hair. He was naked except for a red leather collar around his neck – the same collar Reg had worn.

“Reg?” I asked.

“It would appear so,” he said. “Would you pass me a blanket? It’s a bit chilly without my fur.”

I grabbed a blanket from the bed and threw it over his shoulders so he could cover himself, then removed the collar from his neck.

“You are Harold’s son? All this time, and you never told me?”

“I didn’t know, Miranda. It seems my father erased my memory of who I was in this lifetime, for my own protection. It’s all coming back to me now. I am the original Lord Reginald but I was also reincarnated as Harold’s son. Turning me into a dog and shielding my memory was the only way he could keep me close by while still protecting me. And of course, he placed me in your very capable hands, frozen in time so that I would return to my human form the exact same age as my betrothed when the spell was broken.”

He smiled, melting my heart from the inside out. His eyes were the same gentle brown ones I had fallen in love with when they were fringed with shaggy yellow fur. Now, they were set in a chiseled, handsome face befitting of the nobility that he was.

“I’ve agreed to marry you!” I exclaimed, suddenly remembering my vow.

“Yes, I hope you’re still ok with that,” Reg said. “I don’t think Father wrote a divorce clause into the spell.”

My heart thudded and my face flushed like a schoolgirl meeting her crush for the first time. “Of course I’ll marry you, Reg. Didn’t I say that once?”

He smiled, all pearly white teeth, with no tongue lolling out of his mouth this time and pulled me into a loving embrace.

“You have no idea how much I have longed to hold you just like this,” he whispered in my ear.

 

* * *

 

Our wedding was a simple but elegant garden ceremony with just a few close friends to witness. We were joined on a pretty little stone footbridge that arched over the fish pond in the estate’s expansive garden. It was a beautiful June day; birds chirped, frogs croaked and flowers bloomed everywhere. Sparkly orange and white fish slid through the water below the bridge as we said our vows.

After the ceremony, Reginald scooped me up into his muscular arms and carried me over the threshold into OUR manor, to begin our new life together.

As we made our way to the bedchamber I joked to my new husband, “I guess I will never have to see you with your nose buried between your legs anymore!”

He chuckled, a mischievous glint in his chestnut eyes, “I believe that is now your department, milady!”

“Once a dog, always a dog!” I laughed, giving him a playful kiss on the nose. “I wonder what ever happened to those horrid step-bitches?” I mused.

“Who cares?” Reg replied. “Father said the spell would take care of them and they would never bother us again.”

“Good point,” I smiled and gave him another kiss, this one deep and sensual.

 

* * *

 

A Great Blue Heron stood below the bridge where a wedding ceremony had taken place a few hours earlier. She picked her way slowly through the water lilies, arching her graceful neck to get a better view of the water below. This pond was one of her favorite fishing spots, for the frogs were abundant and the humans always kept it well stocked with Koi.

A large golden body flashed past her feet, frantically diving under the rocky ledge that had been built to shelter the fish. The heron was patient; sooner or later the fish would forget she was there and emerge once again.

 

* * *

 

“Move it, you selfish bitch!” Erin screamed at her sister, her words nothing more than bubbles.

“I was here first, dahling. Find your own refuge,” Maria bubbled. “Frankly, it’s your fault we are here to begin with. If you had gotten that brat under control right from the start…”

“When our father finds out about this…!” Erin began.

“What? What exactly will he do? He’s the one who sent you away to begin with because he couldn’t stand you, you hateful wench! As far as I’m concerned, you deserve to be bird-bait!”

Up above, the shadow of the heron loomed, waiting…

#ShortStorySunday

Copyright © 2013 Mandy White

Published in Dysfictional 2 by Mandy White and WPaD’s Dragons and Dreams

~*~

 

Ernest sat up in bed. “ You hear that?”

Louise looked up from her book. “What’s that, dear?”

“There it is again! It’s the basement door. It’s those damn zombies.”

“Oh, I’m sure it’s nothing. Just the wind.”

“Wind my ass!” Ernest muttered, glancing at the shotgun leaning against the wall in the corner of the bedroom. These days he kept both barrels loaded, just in case. “It’s zombies, I tell ya! I thought I told you to get rid of those fucking laundry pods.”

 

The door rattled again. Ernest had installed sturdy new locks, but they would never give up as long as what they desired lay on the other side of the door.

“Dammit, Louise! This is your fault!”

Louise peered at him over the rims of her glasses. “Seriously, Ern? And what do you expect me to do with them? Just throw them away? I paid good money for those, and I can’t buy them anymore. I’m not going to throw away perfectly good products! Besides, they get the laundry so clean and bright!”

“Clean and bright isn’t worth risking our lives.”

Louise gave him one of those looks reserved for naive children and simpletons. “Isn’t it? Stain-free clothes are worth a little risk. Don’t be a coward, Ernest.”

Ernest opened his mouth to argue, then closed

pods

it. He knew when he was licked.

“Ok, fine, use them up then. How many are left?”

“I bought the Mega Pack from Costco. I got in on the sale just before they pulled them from the shelves. It was one of the last ones, and I was lucky to get it. People are so rude. Fighting, clawing, just to save a few dollars.”

“Isn’t that the same thing you were doing?” Ernest pointed out.

Louise shrugged. “Well, I got them, so I’ll be damned if I’m just going to throw them away.” She sighed. “I’m sure going to miss those things. They get the laundry so clean and bright.”

* * *

What had started as a stupid YouTube stunt turned into a disaster of epidemic proportions. The idiots who ate Tide laundry pods experienced unfortunate side effects from the chemicals contained in the detergent. Brain function slowed. These individuals, clearly short on brains to begin with, became shambling, babbling shells of their former selves. (one still might argue that it was an improvement) The other, more disturbing effect was the hunger. The Pod People craved the colorful packets of toxin and would go to any lengths to obtain them. They possessed an uncanny ability to sniff them out. Stores stopped selling the detergent after the first few weeks of the epidemic to stop the looting. Citizens were ordered to turn their Tide Pods over to authorities. Anyone found with the pods in their possession would not be eligible for police protection in the event of zombie attack. Attacks were the biggest concern, because bites were the way the plague was spread. And Pod People were bitey little fuckers. They were faster than they looked, in spite of their shuffling gait, and inordinately tenacious when focused on something they wanted – that something being Tide Pods, of course. A bite from one of the Pod People would transfer the toxins that flowed through their veins. Victims of bites began to crave laundry pods, overcome with an irresistible urge to eat them. If not apprehended and incarcerated, they wouldn’t rest until they found and ate some of the detergent. After the brain damage set in, they transformed from desperate junkies into shuffling, mumbling zombies. Pod junkies were more dangerous than zombies because they were intelligent and looked like regular people, aside from their desperate behavior. They were also contagious; a bite or scratch from a pod junkie was all it took to spread the addiction.

 

And now someone was trying to open the basement door, attracted by the scent of those godfucked laundry pods Louise was so bloody insistent on keeping. Ernest hoped it was just a zombie and not a junkie. Pod junkies were crafty enough to find a way past a locked door. Zombies just bumped against the door like a trapped Roomba until something else caught their attention. Either way, Ernest knew he was in for another sleepless night. He checked his guns to reassure himself they were loaded, and prayed the locks would hold.

* * *

The next night Ernest awoke sitting in his recliner, where he’d dozed off while watching TV. He heard a sound in the laundry room downstairs. He raced to the bedroom to grab his shotgun. The locks hadn’t held after all. One of the bastards had gotten in and from the sound of it, was in the laundry room chowing down on Tide Pods.

A fucking pod junkie.

Ernest cussed silently and crept toward the sound, shotgun at the ready. The hunched figure in the laundry room had its back to Ernest. He raised the gun and clicked the safety off. The junkie stopped munching and turned to face him, streaks of blue and orange running down its chin.

“Clean and bright!” Louise giggled. “Yummy! And they make everything clean and bright!”

Louise wiped an arm across her mouth and Ernest saw the deep red scratches on the underside of her arm. The scuffle at Costco had yielded more than just a bargain on detergent.

“Join me, Ern. It’s Heaven! Heaven, I tell you!”

“Stay back, Louise. Don’t make me – ”

Louise lunged at Ernest and he squeezed the trigger.

#ShortStorySunday

 

Copyright © 2018 Mandy White

 

Battle of the Bean

It was the end of the world as we knew it, and nobody felt fine. Remember that song by R.E.M.? It’s been stuck inside my head since this whole thing began.
Anarchy reigned; society was in chaos. People rioted in the streets. Yadda-yadda apocalypse…
All because of one little thing. A tiny thing really. Not quite miniscule, perhaps the size of a pea, but a tiny thing nonetheless.
The all-powerful coffee bean.
We were warned of the impending extinction of our precious bean, but like so many warnings before it, we chose to ignore it until forced to confront the ugly truth.
It began early in the century, when farmers in Colombia noticed a troublesome blight affecting the Arabica plants. The blight, known as ‘coffee rust’, was a type of fungus that spread rapidly, despite all efforts to eradicate it.
Some blamed pollution, others blamed global warming, but regardless of who or what was to blame, Arabica crops in Latin America were wiped out by 2017, and from there it spread to crops in Africa.
Still, the public pooh-poohed. As long as Starbucks kept pouring eight-dollar lattes, there was no cause for alarm. The problem was far away from their sheltered yuppie environment. Cultivation was the farmers’ problem, not theirs. Even when the Arabica crops were gone and the price of that particular variety skyrocketed, people simply switched blends.
It wasn’t until every coffee plant on the planet was dead that we were willing to acknowledge that we had a problem. The problem escalated to catastrophic levels when the governments took control of the world’s remaining supply of coffee. Coffee disappeared from supermarket shelves. Starbucks went out of business. Coffee shops with boarded-up windows littered the urban landscape.
At more than ten times the price per kilo, coffee replaced cocaine as Colombia’s most lucrative illegal export. Coffee cartels waged war on each other in hopes of controlling the world’s dwindling supplies of the precious brown bean. Penalties for smuggling coffee ranged from several years to life in prison or even death by firing squad, depending on which country one was arrested in, but that didn’t stop an intrepid few from trying their luck.
Street value of an ounce of ground coffee climbed higher than that of gold. Users traded automatic weapons, priceless family heirlooms and even the deeds to their homes for a cup of espresso, just to get one more fix of that aromatic black nectar.
We tried consuming tea, colas and caffeine pills, but it didn’t take us long to learn that caffeine wasn’t what gave coffee its addictive nature. It turned out there was another ingredient we had overlooked. A mystery ingredient that latched onto the brain much like cocaine did. Suffice it to say, lack of this ingredient made some people very unhappy indeed. Scientists analyzed it, tried to isolate it and tried to synthesize it but to no avail.
The increase in violent crimes due to coffee withdrawal led to the legalization of marijuana. Pounds of Purple Kush, Amsterdam Indica and BC Big Bud now occupied the shelf space that had once displayed pounds of French Roast, Breakfast Blend and Decaf. A society of anxious, stressed-out bean-hounds became laid-back and complacent, sleepily smiling as they crammed their mouths full of snacks.
Of course, there were still the hardcore addicts, for whom nothing else but the bitter ambrosia would do. White-collar professionals became organized crime bosses, dealing the world’s most valuable substance to street addicts, some of them former colleagues. When the coffee finally ran out, one country accused the next of hoarding it, even though nobody had any coffee anymore.
With everyone at each other’s throats, the UN dissolved. Their final meeting ended in a massive brawl; a Battle Royal between nearly 200 delegates that resolved nothing. The situation deteriorated to the point of war, with everyone pointing warheads at everyone else.
With a bunch of coffee-starved world leaders holding their jittery fingers over the red button, I did what any sensible man would and went to ground.
I found the bomb shelter in my neighbor’s back yard after investigating the sound of a gunshot. I found him at his kitchen table, where he had been trying to snort lines of instant coffee before giving up and swallowing the barrel of his .357. Poor bastard – everyone knows there’s no real coffee in that instant stuff, but looks like he died trying.
I found a shovel and thought I’d do the neighborly thing and give him a decent burial but damn, the ground was hard! I tried a few different spots but kept hitting rocks, then at one point I hit something metal. Curious, I dug it up, and damned if I didn’t find a bomb shelter! Probably built during World War II and long forgotten under layers of landscaping. My neighbor probably bought the house without even knowing it existed.
So, when the threat of nuclear war became imminent, I packed some supplies and retreated into the shelter with plans to stay put for a few weeks or months until the coast was clear. I brought food, plenty of water, books to read, flashlights and batteries, but I needn’t have bothered to pack so much because when I got down there I discovered the shelves well-stocked. Sure, eighty-year-old canned goods might not be ideal, but they were better than nothing if it came down to it. I scanned my flashlight over the shelves and lo and behold! What did I see? Coffee! Cans and cans of magnificent, marvelous coffee!
I had packed a butane camp stove and a few cases of fuel, so I was all set to prepare hot meals. Now hot coffee would accompany those meals! This dark, dusty hole in the ground had suddenly become paradise.

I’m writing this down, partly to keep myself busy so I don’t think about coffee. I also thought it would be a good idea to record what became of our world just in case nobody else is alive to do it.
As close as I can figure, it’s been about six months since I felt the first of the bombs hit. My food supply is dwindling, even the really old stuff. If I have to eat another can of cold lima beans I’m going to scream. Who the hell puts lima beans in a bomb shelter? I guess I could leave the shelter, but as long as I have coffee in my possession I run the risk of getting robbed, maybe even killed for it. Lord only knows what’s happening up on the surface.
I’m down to my last can of coffee, but I’ve been putting off opening it because once it’s gone, then I truly will be out of coffee. After that I will leave the shelter and see what awaits me up above.
I’ll wait one more day to open it. I can go without coffee for just one more day. I’ve been saving one last can of butane to make it nice and hot. Cold food I can handle, but cold water won’t brew coffee.

See? One day wasn’t so tough. Why not make it two? If I have a cup of coffee every two days, it will last twice as long. If I wait one more day before opening the last can, that’s one more day before I run out for good.

I made it a whole week. Wow. That’s one more week before I run out. As long as I have that can of coffee, I’m the richest man on earth. I might also be the only man on earth, but… mere details.

Two weeks, and that damn can of coffee sits there unopened, mocking me, daring me to open it. You’d like that, wouldn’t you? Nice try, coffee can. I’m smarter than you. After all, you’re just a stupid can of coffee. I’m over you. I don’t love you anymore. I could quit you cold turkey if I wanted to.
Aw, fuck it. Since I know I can quit anytime I want, I might as well drink it and enjoy the last coffee on earth.
I’m doing it. This is it. I’m opening the can.
Tomorrow.

I’ve been out of food for weeks now, and starvation is weakening me more each day. The can of coffee still sits unopened, though. I have decided to save it until the very end. If the last thing I do before I leave this world is drink the last cup of coffee in that can, I will die a happy man. I’ll have to do it soon, though. I’m on my last two gallons of bottled water.
Maybe it’s time I left the shelter. There is probably clean water on the surface. Hell, I don’t even care if it’s contaminated, just as long as it will make a decent cuppa Joe. But… what if it’s total chaos up there? I’d be killed for my can of coffee for sure. I guess I could leave it in the shelter. Nobody knows it’s here. But what if I was followed on the way back, or worse, what if someone found this place – and my coffee – while I was away? Without my coffee, I have nothing. No, the only way it will be safe is if I stay and guard it.
When I finish the water I have open, I will open the last jug of water along with the can of coffee and brew a nice steaming cup of Heaven. When the coffee is gone, I will leave the shelter. If the world is destroyed, I’ll use the revolver I took from my neighbor’s hand and exit in likewise fashion.

NO! NO!!!! I went to open the last water jug and found it empty! DRY! All this time I thought it was full but I didn’t actually pick it up and shake it. The jug must have had a leak at the bottom because the water is long gone. No. No. No. I can’t live without water, because without water I can’t make coffee. A world without coffee is not one I want to face.
Goodbye world, whatever’s left of you.
* * *
The steel door groaned open. Two faces peered into the hole, closing their inner eyelids to shield their eyes from the dust that rose.
“What is this?”
“I’m not sure. Looks like some kind of ancient ruins. There’s a cave or something down there. Let’s go down and check it out.”
They scuttled down the shaft into the cavern below.
“Look there! Bones! What kind of creature is that?”
“I don’t know, but it’s not one of us. Look, only four appendages and it doesn’t even have a tail! Must be some kind of weird old fossil.”
“What’s that object beside it?”
A webbed, green-scaled hand reached for the metal can.
“Is it some kind of weapon?”
“I don’t think so. Maybe it’s food or something. Look, I can open it.”
Sniff. Sniff.
“What is that?”
“I don’t know, but it smells delicious! Should we taste it?”
“No, it might be poison. Let’s go and ask Mom first.”

#ShortStorySunday

Copyright© 2014 Mandy White
(Previously Published in Goin’ Extinct by WPaD and Dysfictional 2 by Mandy White)