fiction, lust, women

Beyond The Truth

Beyond The Truth

M B Blissett

My stomach hurt like something had grown and slid out my asshole, leaving me ripped and bleeding in its wake. There were days washed of action, fetal on the couch and smoking weed to keep the edge off all the feelings sharpened and turned inward. People admired my intelligence, but they said it in the faint pitying tone you’d give when seeing someone in the street with a facial deformity. How brave they were to go about their business when they had a conjoined twin hanging from their face. All my intelligence had fled before her, and there was humour in realising why hurricanes had women’s names.

 

She had not gotten in touch afterwards. My boundaries had held enough to my maxim that there was no friendship after this. We were lovers or nothing, which sounded trite but it saved my life.

 

It was the money she took, which got me. It wasn’t mine, and my creditors weren’t patient or understanding. Despite all the pain, there were limits to what a man could endure. For the first time in days, thinking about love and how it had broken me again.

 

Love on a neurochemical level is instinct and euphoria. It houses the former in the media insula and the latter, in the anterior cingulate cortex. Our nervous systems resonate at the sound of their name. We stew in a cocktail of testosterone, estrogen, vasopressin and oxytocin. It stresses us to be lovers, yet we die to maintain it.

 

It enhances the best and worst of us. Low serotonin levels contribute to episodes of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, focused on the love partner, former or otherwise. She had created the perfect person to hunt her down.

 

Someone who loved her.

 

Hammering through the concrete floor, head swimming from the weed which had sustained me in a soft cocoon of equanimity. Each swing cracked it into pieces and then there was my foot locker, locked and buried, with all my old tools cleaned and oiled, waiting for me to come back like a murderer returning to the scene of the crime.

 

The revolver, a fat silver machine with tooled grips and an action smooth as butter. My father had won medals shooting with it, and it had saved my life a few times. The other tools went into a duffel bag, and then into the trunk of my car.

 

The drive gave me time to think. Without a place to go, it was a matter of recalling what she had said about herself.

 

What she hadn’t said concerned me more.

 

2.

 

She wasn’t clear on where she came from. The Midwest. The opposite coast from where we were. What fucked me was how pretty she was, which meant my faculties were reeling from the chemical holocaust of someone beautiful talking without money being involved.

 

It always is, you know. Money.

 

You pay for love if you get my meaning. All the poetry, the songs, they sounded like fucking lies now.

 

Her money came from a lucky dip of shifts working and auditioning for work. There was a haughtiness to her smile which set her out as someone different. The beauty was there, but it was like smog, where you didn’t see it anymore. Unless it looked into your eyes and took an interest in who you were and where you were going with your life.

 

She looked like a woman who knew who she was. There was an excitement to her, which didn’t come from a line or a bottle, and she laughed at my jokes without prompting.

 

Sex was a simple thing. My place was closer, and knowing nothing about her, she laid on my bed and sat there, a voyeur who knew the power of the visual on the masculine libido and looked at me with a coquettish want which robbed me of reason.

 

Fingers clasped together, bellies slapping and moving inside her like I couldn’t get deep enough. Her legs over my shoulders as I pounded into her, shivering strokes as I counted backwards, trying not to come too soon until she hissed, between clenched teeth, that she wanted me to.

 

She made me come so hard; it felt like it turned me inside out by it.  Afterwards she stroked the hair on my chest, one warm thigh draped over mine as we talked. Those hours, where all my feelings were on the surface were an education for her. An ongoing, evolving curriculum in understanding and manipulating men.

 

It was easy to wise after the fact. My defence was that I hadn’t told her the important things, but she got an idea from the lack of details there was more going on than I divulged. Women don’t want full disclosure, but those that do, they know what to do with the information.

 

A friend let her down on a place, so sure she could stay at mine. We were seeing one another all the time anyway, so why not?

 

Why not?

 

She was in my place for hours. The tools were under concrete. My accounts all pointed to a place in my life where good years underpinning a quiet life. When Yanni asked if I could hold a bag for him, it wasn’t an issue.

 

We had trust. She was working every bliss button on my body, and in my head. One of her friends had come over, and we’d ended up in a hot, wet triangle and she had cried with pleasure afterwards as her friend slipped away, blushing and awkward as we laid on the bed together, mutual survivors of an ecstatic explosion.

3.

 

Linda. Dark, with a hard, dancer’s body. She lived on pills and pressed vegetable juices, but she still had all her teeth. Linda tasted of peaches, which brought the blood to my face as I parked the car.

 

She was a hostess at La Mer, a fusion bistro on Sunset. She didn’t recognise me at first, which made me grateful until the mention of my girl’s name made her grimace with a genuine disgust.

 

‘That cunt? Jesus, I never want to see her ass again. She owes me a lot of cash.’ she said.

 

A fifty made her amicable. A drink opened her up and she sat there, spewing bile as I struggled to avoid weeping with embarrassment and shame. The world put an arm around her shoulders while I got a raised eyebrow and a whispered maxim which spoke in my dad’s voice.

 

You should have known better.

 

Linda hadn’t known where she had come from. Somewhere midwestern. A town with a factory which closed down, sucked the blood out of it and prompted her to move on.

 

I leaned forwards.

 

‘Where are you from?’

 

She lowered her eyes and picked up her drink before she spoke.

 

‘Dallas. I came out here with my sister, auditioned like crazy, but she didn’t have the spine for it.’ she said.

 

‘Spine for what?’

 

Linda smiled and it saddened me.

 

‘It’s tough out here, you know?’

 

I nodded. She carried fewer bodies on her conscience than I did, but it weighed on her the same.

‘So how did she fuck you over?’ she said.

I coughed into my fist and cleared my throat.

‘She took something which wasn’t mine. I need it back.’

Linda gave a pitying smile and put her hand out.

‘We’ll never see her again, dude. Accept it.’ she said.

Her voice was a resigned whisper, arid like the desert and too old to come from such a pretty face.

I shook my head.

‘I can, Linda, but these people, they can’t. Either I find her or they do.’

She gave her the address of the bar she had worked at. It wasn’t one I recognised, but I gave her another fifty for her time. It was a token attempt to gain something back from being recognised as a fellow victim without the hum of connection to elevate it to a good experience. She touched the back of my hand.

‘We had fun, didn’t we?’ she said.

My eyes were wet as I looked at her.

‘We did, but we paid for it.’ I said.

She pushed her number on me. Her loneliness radiated off her in waves, and I shrunk away from it. There was enough in me to save my skin, but I couldn’t save her. My head swam with exhaustion as I drove to The Lady J.

 

4.

She went by Rachel. She had been popular, a bright, vivacious girl who made weak men feel potent and strong men weak, which meant she banked tips all the time. No one figured out why she was borrowing money all the time, or how there was someone who had let her down.

Rich had the wounded look of a fellow survivor. He was three hundred pounds, thick with muscle and covered with serpentine, faded tattoos on every surface. He gave nothing up. There was something recognisable in his eyes when he spoke about her.

Love, writhing and seething underneath his ridged forehead and pooled in his soft, brown eyes. I paid him for his time, but kept back how the Greeks were looking for her.

After closing up, he got in his truck and drove home. He parked up, and the door opened. She stood there, in pink cotton shorts and a t-shirt, hair like spun gold as she clung to him, whispering sweet nothings in his ear.

I pinched the bridge of my nose and closed my eyes. A phone call would end everything but the crazy you saw was never the crazy you had to worry about.

Two shots rang out from the house. I was out of the car, with the gun in my hand, running to the house. My motives escaped me, lurching between a desire to see her dead and a need to make sure she was ok.

There was the fog of sex in the house. It rested like grit against my tongue, and I put the gun up. A low, keening sound came from the room at the end of the hall.

 

‘You motherfucker.’ she said.

Rachel hadn’t spoken in days but her voice slashed into me as I aimed the gun ahead of me and pushed the door open with my foot.

 

He sat against the wall, wisps of smoke coming from two indentations on his scalp as he stared ahead, making noises like he from a horrific nightmare. He had on white undershorts, and his belly hung over, thick and round like an abscess. Blood coated his chest, glistening in the lamplight.

 

Rachel was curled onto her side, clutching the shredded remains of her right hand. The gun had been something small and cheap, a.38 pistol, judging by the trigger punched into the plaster to her right. It had taken most of her hand, and she was shrieking, covered in her own blood before she noticed I was there.

‘Oh shit, baby please, I need a hospital.’ she said.

I shook my head and looked around the bedroom.

There had been so many things I imagined saying to her. All the blood and screaming exhausted me, so I asked her where the money was. She shook her head and begged me to take her to a hospital.

The click of the hammer compelled her attention.

It was in a wardrobe. I opened it, keeping the gun trained on her as I dragged out the suitcase and picked it up. Every breath in her presence hurt. A friend would have helped her, at least cleaned her up and stuck around.

‘Where are you from?’

She sobbed and shook her head.

‘Fuck you, Tony.’ she said.

She would have been grateful. I could have smoothed things over, gave her a chance to make it up but as she sat there, wounded and crazed, a moment passed which lifted weight from my heart.

 

‘Did they get sick of you there, too?’

She turned away. We both looked at one another then at Rich.

‘What did he do?’

Rachel sat up, grimacing as she wrapped a sheet around the twisted ruin of her hand. Blood soaked into the material but she regained strength from dressing it.

‘He gave the worst head I’ve had in my life. Too fucking eager.’ she said.

I put the gun back into the holster.

‘You should get out of town.’ I said.

All the love within me for her went into those words. They were fragile carriage for the truth she’d shown me. We both lost pieces of one another, but not so much I couldn’t walk away.

‘You made it easy for me.’ she said.

Her voice was a metallic trap closing on the remains of my heart. I managed a smile and nodded at her before I left.

I called Yannis from the car, watched the carnival of emergency services rush past me. He was happy for me, and the cash was good for a visit to a dispensary on the way home.

It hadn’t mattered where she came from. Wherever it was, they had cast her out without a mark of warning on her. The missing hand would provoke pity, which she would use to get ahead. My relief was acute, but it hurt to have been played so well by someone so empty.

The smoke helped as I stared outside, waiting for the dawn to come and make everything new again.

 

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love, sex, short fiction, women

Urge

 

She measured her day in tasks. Lunches made and counters cleaned until they shone. Fresh, desperate breakfasts which she served with a gleeful aplomb, ignoring the sleep-glazed expressions of her family as she dished up crisp bacon and thick pancakes. Her husband and son were a reflection on her, and she had established herself as a cheerful dictator. Carl was solid, unassuming and gentle in a nervous, concerned manner which meant he came home to meals sober and on time. They had sex when they felt they should.

 

‘She can’t even make a pot of coffee, but everyone seems to like her.’ Carl said.

 

He was talking about Taylor, the new secretary and her ineptitude alongside the bland, amiable monologues he used to fill the space.

 

Erica flashed him a bright smile as she poured him another coffee. He smiled back and carried on talking whilst Tommy shoveled cereal into his mouth and chewed with his mouth closed. She felt a small burst of pride, took it like medicine against the guilt and the powerlessness.

 

‘She sounds like a klutz, honey.’ she said.

 

Carl’s face turned red and he nodded, a beat too quick for her liking but he wasn’t good with women. He went to great pains to hide his fear, by being at great pains to remain benign and professional around them. Carl’s virtue was he would never leave her.

 

Tommy made it to the bus, independent and brusque with his efforts to prove childhood was tucked in the storage space along with the undersized clothes and garish plastic toys. Once Carl had left, the only sounds were the scheduled breathing of the house – the hum of the refrigerator, pipes and floorboards eased or contracted by the temperature and the babbling excited chatter beneath her skin which sent her rushing around the house like a pinball in play. The air was clean, conditioned with a small bouquet of faint cooking smells and the lemon wax polish she used on the weekends. She did a final circuit of the house then went upstairs to change.

 

She wore a white shirt, pencil skirt, stockings and a purple brasserie, without panties. He had told her not to when she came to see him, and hearing him order her around in his low, soft growl made her flutter with anticipation. Erica allowed an hour to prepare, but with each slow stroke of the hairbrush, she knew it would adhere into a single lock at the back of her head where he would grab her as they wrestled with one another. Her strokes were awkward as she thought of him, the gentle burn of his beard against her skin and how he handled her with a brutish ease, then afterwards would hold her so tight she couldn’t breathe. The guilt came later, but these moments were a song she couldn’t get out of her head no matter how much she tried. Her heart hammered in her chest and she messaged him, asking permission to touch herself.

 

No, he replied. She bit her bottom lip and put the phone down. Erica looked in the mirror and saw herself, flushed and expectant, before she finished brushing her hair. The drive to him was quick and she sang along with the radio, girlish and flushed with excitement as she drove to her lover.

 

These moments were the anaesthetic. Pain came later, and it made her studious at home. She laid beneath Carl, stroking his back as he pumped inside her and closed her eyes, willing herself not to think about her lover and failing, opening to the present with a fervour which made Carl come in reflex. She read to Tommy, helped with his homework and cleaned the house, made the lunches and kept her tears private.  She wished she could split herself in two, and the pull between him and her family wore on her nerves like a disease which worried at her psyche until it was translucent.

 

She knew it was coming but these times with him paid for it all. They went out, but her favourite thing was to come to his home, then his bed and after a shower and food, they would sit on his couch, her feet up on his lap as he massaged her feet until she made low, purring noises in the back of her throat. He worked from home in a studio building on the grounds of his house, was there most of the time.  It had been how they had met, when she came in with a coupon from the local newsletter, blushing at his jokes and staying for a coffee afterwards, when an appointment cancelled on him.

 

He answered the door in a white t-shirt and faded blue jeans. His smile made her bubble with glee and excitement, a narcotic rush which reduced her senses to the promise of his skin against hers. Erica stepped through the door and he took her in his arms. The height difference meant she fit into his chest, small and safe in the space they created together.

 

2.

 

They whispered hello to one another, chuckled at the dichotomy between the feverish need which animated their hands and mouths alongside the delicate greeting. He stopped kissing her and took her to the bedroom, his hand around hers, looking back at her with a dark, primal want which resembled anger or irritation to the uninformed, but she knew the want. Carl was a good man but beneath her lover’s fingers and tongue, his worth drowned in the deluge of sensation which bloomed in her soul like hothouse orchids.  He undressed her, sighing with lust as she pressed herself against him.

She guided his hand to her throat, and when his fingers pressed against her arteries whilst his other hand was at play between her legs, she asked, between gritted teeth, permission to come. His casual shake of the head made her whimper and her impending orgasm thrashed and bucked inside her as she asked him again. She asked him but he denied her until she shook with the intensity of it and cried out as she came in juddering, celestial spasms of joy.

 

Afterwards, he fucked her like a prisoner on a conjugal visit, rough in a way Carl would be horrified by. She stopped asking permission when she could not speak, gushing over his cock where his strokes imposed themselves on the deepest points of sensation inside her. He verged on brutal when he fucked her, all at her behest, and the intensity of it resisted the moral argument she had with herself whilst she was with him.

 

Erica loved him. She wished she hadn’t, but the time with him was simple and comfortable without being dull. He got things about her without having them explained to him, and she opened to him, let him into parts of herself even Carl hadn’t found. The pleasant inertia grated on her, and when she tried to end things, he had accepted it with a stoic, wounded grace which made her feel awful afterwards.

 

She was proud of herself for managing six months. If anyone had included not thinking of him, then she had managed nothing close to cutting off contact with him.

 

The cycle was relentless on her nerves but she clung on, and when she left, part of her stayed with him. She tested him about it, why he wasn’t seeing other women, and she hid the relief when he shrugged his shoulders and said he was happy with her. The unspoken, artificial nature of it hung between them, unspoken except in her moments of anguish. She was sick without him, but she was frightened this too, was an addiction, no matter how solicitous and gentle he was with her.

 

HIs primacy was magnetic to her, and she had tried so hard to pull away.

 

Erica stopped at a nearby mall for her alibi and she was grateful for the anonymous mass of people, losing herself for a time amongst them, shopping in a pleasant daze when she wandered into the food court.

 

It was out of the way here, but not so far as to require a story.

 

She stood there, looked at the couple holding hands across the table.

 

Carl had the same idea.

 

The woman, younger than Erica, with pale green eyes and white blonde hair. She exuded a tanned, excited youth as she looked at Carl with fervour. Her hands were in his, and he stroked the backs of her fingers in slow, hungry strokes. He was clumsy in passion, yet the woman sat across from him was flush with desire and Erica turned away, stunned and relieved at the same time.

 

His hair looked different, she thought, but then she had not noticed him in a while.

 

She drove home in a daze, and later, she wondered how there hadn’t been an accident. Tommy would be home soon, she told herself, an hour, no more and she had looked ahead when she walked in the door.

 

The note on the kitchen table.

 

Her hands shook with too much feeling to contain. She went upstairs to use the bathroom.His half of the wardrobe was empty and he had left his bank cards and house keys. It was organised with a feminine efficacy which she knew hadn’t come from Carl.

 

She scratched a small itch on her nose, caught the faint amber warmth of Jon’s skin on her fingers and stopped herself from rushing to wash her hands.

 

Erica got out her phone. She should have rung her husband, asked for an explanation, even begged him to come back to her, negotiate a desire which had been throttled by anxiety and duty but she did not.

 

Jon answered the phone by saying her name.

 

‘I need you.’ she said.

 

It felt right to admit it inside her home. She told him the rest through her tears, and before Tommy came home, he was on his way.

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fiction, love, short fiction

Tips For Dating A Homicide Detective

‘Do you believe in ghosts?’ Gloria said. She was flushed with excitement at his being a cop but too polite to come out and ask Hoyt about his work straight away.

He looked past her. The growing crowd who followed him around. Junot with his throat cut. Jessica, blue from strangulation. Too many others to hold onto. Each one faded when he closed a case but there were others. They spoiled dates but he’d been lonely.

He picked up the glass and smiled, enjoying her excitement and wondered if she could handle the truth.

‘Sure I do.’ he said.

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short fiction, women

Episode 32 – The Transformation

Kelly watched him from the doorway, sleeping on his side with his arm stretched out. His chest rose in slow rhythms and she fought the urge to slip underneath it. She feared it closed to her now even though she had healed him. There was so much she understood, but it was the unknown aspects of her world which inflicted damage beyond her means to heal.

 

She was not alone. The dogs had the run of the house, but they stayed away from her. Their loyalties were absolute, and she read the unyielding column of their love manifested as a rainbow bridge of neural activities.

 

There was the artificial intelligence. She had stolen some of its data as a reflex, and she guessed it closed to her as much as John himself.

 

She could go. There were people after her, but there had been people after her for years. Life had been a series of hotel rooms, damp walls and stale sheets, beds which vibrated if you fed coins into a meter and televisions tuned into a riot of lurid colours. John had a beautiful home, but it was cold and empty to her now.

 

It was a laboratory, a temple to a mystery she bore like a scarlet A or the mark of Cain and revolted underneath it.

 

The doorbell rang and she flinched. She heard John get up, sighing as he stood and threw on a t-shirt in the dark. He moved past her, his palm brushing against her hip with an offhand tenderness which made her sigh with relief.

 

Police. A uniformed officer, wired with tangential adrenaline, doing a routine visit to ask if they had heard anything. John explained they had been watching a movie in bed and Kelly heard the faint intimacies within the long pause, John’s relative state of undress and the officer’s restless looks away.

 

She reached and ran her consciousness over his, saw he was fighting an image of the two of them together, Kelly’s long legs wrapped around him before she drew back and found nothing suspicious in John’s recollection.

 

Kelly left a suggestion inside the officer’s head to think he had written their names and details, and to go see if he could do something useful with his time. She planted a seed in the soil of his insecurities and let it grow as he exchanged hot, gnawing looks and dull, envious small talk with John.

 

She watched John close the door, appalled at how she had used her abilities without cause. John turned and looked at her in the doorway.

 

‘You’ve experienced a big part of the problem, Kelly.’ he said.

 

She frowned and stepped backwards.

 

‘I’m not – it was just easier.’ she said.

 

John glanced past her.

 

‘Yes, it’s natural, like turning into a wolf or an insect who feeds on memories.’

 

She closed her eyes as a molten anger heated the air in her lungs.

 

‘John, this isn’t helping-‘ she said.

 

His eyes blazed in the darkness as he raised his hands.

 

‘Then what does, Kelly?’

 

His voice was loud, and Kelly flinched as her muscles coiled to prepare for conflict. The fight-or-flight instinct was a scalpel and she read the wounded frustration in his posture and neural activity. An aura of regal purple and harsh infected red exuded from him.

 

‘I lost control, John. It’s not your fault.’

 

His lips drew back over his teeth as he stared at her.

 

‘Everything is my fault.’ he said.

 

She came towards him as he opened his arms and held her with enough force to make her bones hurt. Kelly needed the force of his reassurance as she put her mouth to his ear and clutched his back.

 

‘What are we going to do?’ she said.

 

He told her in a terse whisper and she agreed with a nod before she asked him to take her to bed. John gripped the hair at the back of her head and held her gaze, looking at her with a focus which made her ache with a sudden, vicious want.

 

‘Are we monsters?’ she said.

 

He shook his head before he kissed her. His teeth found her lips and she pressed against him. They moved like they could not get close enough to one another, and by the time they made it to the bed, she was screaming for him to be inside her.

 

Afterwards, they whispered to one another about their fears and she listened to him detail how they would approach her transformations.

 

His authority offered Kelly a state between surrender and control, which softened her fears as the parts of her made alien stayed dormant in his presence.

 

Adam watched the flames with fascination as he moved through the house. There was no one left to resist him, and he watched as people fled with a cold fascination. The woman had shown talent, and he had felt his consciousness warp before an attempted assault.

 

He recalled her tapping into the air, her forehead wrinkled with concentration as he wrestled with the man whose pores dripped lava. He couldn’t move his fingers without bursting the livid blisters which congregated where the flesh had not burned away. The pain was insistent, but he kept it under control as he walked outside.

 

There were sirens in the distance and he shook out his arms, acknowledging the flares of pain which travelled up his arms. He had ammunition to spare, and a part of him revelled in the chance to hurt others again.

 

The woman had fled, and she knew things. The intrusion into his mind had unnerved him, and such an insult could not go unavenged.

 

By the time the police arrived, he had left. There were enough bodies and evidence to keep their attention occupied, and none of them knew how it had been a whim which kept them alive. Adam’s hands healed by dawn and he kept walking, imagining the woman’s neck in his grasp to motivate him.

 

3.

 

Olivia read the secretary’s intentions with the ease of a take away menu. Her heightened senses fed her professional experience so each micro expression was clownish and obvious which made manipulating her a polite series of observations and questions.

 

Olivia gestured to the teacups, three in a row by her computer monitor.

 

‘I bet it’s the least of your collection.’ Olivia said.

 

She had shaped her features to resemble the woman, sculpting her jaw to reflect a similarity which would endear the woman to Olivia.

 

Ellen blushed and looked away.

 

‘They’re so pretty. I run this office, so it doesn’t hurt to have a few touches to make things feel -‘

 

Olivia smiled and changed the set of her shoulders to better mimic Ellen.

 

‘Human?’ Olivia said.

 

Olivia adjusted her vocal chords, emitting a frequency which made Ellen susceptible to suggestion. It was like putting a hat on a hat, but Olivia wanted to work with haste and Ellen helped anyone who massaged her fragile ego.

 

Homely.’ Ellen said.

 

She would get the files.

 

Nothing wrong in helping Mr Howlett at all. Olivia hid her delight at Ellen’s obedience and she was back in the car with a telephone number, an email and most important, an address. There was glee in Olivia’s steps when she got into the car, and underneath it, a thirst to reward her skill and care.

 

She resolved to use her abilities with care, Amaro expected nothing less.

 

Olivia called him but an aide answered. He was at rest and Olivia passed on her intention to start contact with him at the earliest opportunity. She looked at her reflection in the mirror, arching her eyebrows and giving herself a confident smile.

 

She set off and turned the air conditioning up, feeling more comfortable as the chilled air blasted her skin. Olivia was hungry, but she had work to do.

 

4.

 

The waitress was kind to her, but she didn’t feel deserving. Her head rattled like a pit of snakes, trying to come up with a reason she wasn’t coming home. All the stories she had written, and here she was, stuck in a cosmic second-act climax, without a hope of turning the tables on whatever was coming for her.

 

They had built him from various interpretations of the character, borrowing from cinema and literature alongside some novel comic book versions to develop a version which would prove unstoppable in pursuit of its mission. He was relentless.

 

There were flaws in his character which she could exploit if she avoided being shot or stabbed long enough to strike at them. She was a long way from a Swiss lake or an Arctic floe, but she resolved to find something she could use, writing on napkins as she drank endless cups of tea, writing to beat the dawn, and whatever followed it.

 

She recalled the location of the other flares and headed in a different direction. It was not safe, but it offered something.

 

Hope.

 

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love, short fiction, women

the field where they met

industrial_fields_2__the_colony__by_markusvogt-dcbjo16.jpg

 https://www.deviantart.com/art/Industrial-Fields-2-The-Colony-744987498

 

He pulled himself out of the earth. It was night, but he looked up, dismayed not to see the stars to guide his way.

 

He brushed himself down, letting the cool air kiss his skin before he left his bed behind him. The world was different, sour with a sickness which laid heavy on his soul. He found a river and washed himself, combing out his beard and laying on the banks until his skin dried in the loving kiss of dawn. There were trees here, and he found roots and berries to ease the hollow ache of hunger in his stomach. His head was full with her and it was a hunger which built with each passing moment.

 

He watched a squalid knot of people shuffle past, wrapped in sheets and passing a pipe between them, holding it to their mouths as they sucked down medicine to ease their pain. They shouldered bows, and he saw knives on their belts. Their eyes were dull, and he noted the dull, red sores on their lips and cheeks.

 

It would have been foolish to approach them. Weakness made people dangerous, and he had no interest in fighting.

 

Her absence pulled at him, and he followed it through the woods and out into the world.

 

2.

 

It had been during a harvest where he wandered into the world of men, leaving no trace of his presence beyond footprints. He watched them crown a young man, representative of a plea to their Gods for a bountiful harvest and decided it would be a good year for these people.

 

He saw her across the village green. She recognised him without fear or awe, and when she walked towards him, he raised an eyebrow at her boldness.

 

‘My grandfather saw you once.’ she said.

 

He narrowed his eyes as he looked at her face, compared it to his own memories and recalled the man.

 

‘How is John?’ he said.

 

She blushed and looked away.

 

‘He died last winter. He prayed to you, but you did not come.’ she said.

 

He shook his head.

 

‘There are places prayer does not reach us. When I return home, I will look for him.’ he said.

 

She scowled and walked away. He watched her sway and enjoyed it as he drank and watched the young man get up from the throne, flushed with the thrill of ritual as maidens guided him into the crowd.

 

Night fell. He sat by the fire, watching the flames feed on the wood when she found him.

 

‘He didn’t pray for you. He broke wind, rolled over and died.’ she said.

 

He pressed his lips together and pinched the bridge of his nose to hide his laughter.

 

‘It’s more tribute than a god deserves.’  he said.

 

He enjoyed the smile, her lips pulled back over her teeth, eyes alive with a dancing, smart amusement and a challenge implicit in her expression as he got to his feet.

 

‘You’re Barbaraline.’ he said.

 

She grimaced and shook her head.

 

‘Don’t do that. Speak what’s on your mind, not mine.’ she said.

 

He moved towards her, and she held her ground.

 

‘You don’t want to know what a god thinks.’ he said.

 

She turned and wandered away, looking over her shoulder and grinning with a playfulness which inflamed his senses.

 

‘No, I want to know what he does.’ she said.

 

He returned when his duties allowed. They used one another with gratitude and fervour, and with each visit, they became tender with one another, serving and being served. He fed her animals and rubbed her feet, she cooked for him and shared her knowledge with him. At night, they laid together and spoke of the future.

 

When his father announced a final battle against the titans of chaos at the edge of the world, he laid plans for his return.

 

They might not be the same people, but they saw the spark within one another. Between his divinity and her magic, they concocted a means for his return, and their reunion.

 

They walked deep into the forest, holding hands as they focused on particular memories of one another.

 

For her, it was his face, the gentle smile when she set down a plate of food for him and the appreciative noises he made as he ate. She missed the calm he exuded even as they enjoyed it for the last time.

 

He thought of her face as they made love. The smell of her neck and when she educated him on the uses of herbs and plants were indivisible.

 

The ritual was brief but intense. He would return if he fell in battle and find her again.  They returned to the house, made love until dawn and he made her tea before he left. She watched him leave from the doorway, hand resting over her stomach, full of him but missing him with each step he took away.

 

3.

 

He crouched behind the remains of a pillar, clutched his sword to his chest and watched his brothers and sisters die.

 

Dire staggered backwards, clutching at his head whilst his brain boiled inside his skull.

 

Hermes was still, the golden contents of his stomach strewn about him, gutted by a titan’s blade.

 

He ran, took out a titan with a downward slice of his sword which split its chest in two before he leapt towards his father’s side. The titan cannons spat fire into their ranks, decimating their shield wall in a single wave of flame. His father spat blood down his thick, white beard as he hefted his hammer and charged the remaining titans.

 

He took a blast of fire to his leg and fell as he swept the blade in a clean arc before him. It was over, and the last of the titans fell.

 

He rolled onto his back and felt his father reach for him as his vision blurred.

 

‘You’ve been a good son.’ his father said.

 

He hoped he would return to tell Barbaraline this when he saw her again.

 

4.

 

The sounds of industry rang out as he walked into a place he loved but no longer recognised.

The land was littered with squat, dark buildings like scabs on the skin of the earth. Each of them belched smoke which clung to everything and there was no corn in his path. He kneeled down and ran the soil through his fingers. It clung in damp clots and stained his fingers before he wiped them on his knee and stood up.

 

He felt for her, a faint pulse, like the memory of a private joke or a good meal.

 

He saw the creature on the roof stretch out black gleaming wings as it revealed a mouthful of sharp, white teeth. It hissed at him and he turned around to face it.

 

‘I don’t wish to fight you.’ he said.

 

The creature hissed and tested the strength of its wings in sharp, snapping movements.

 

It took to the air and dived towards him, sinuous and elegant even as it came for him with murder in its eyes. He waited until the last moment before he wrapped his arms around its head and neck, thrust his hips and swung his legs around its midsection. A single sustained squeeze of his arms and thighs snapped its neck and they fell to the earth together. He wiped the yellow blood from his arm and looked at the creature. He had fought the titans to save this world, but had abandoned her to a worse fate than the titans.

 

She called to him and he hunted for her.

 

The loving machine trees which fired explosive acorns in rapid flurries which exploded behind him. He made peace with them before they hosted him in their great halls, made from volunteers who sacrificed their flesh for the comfort of others.

 

An army of men who all wore the same face, spoke with one voice as they overwhelmed him. He escaped and won a duel with their leader. Upon his death, each of them disappeared and he stood alone in an empty arena. Two days later, he climbed out and felt her pulse, close as his own.

 

The earth was sick and strange, but when he saw the small house and heard the bleating and barking of animals, he ran towards it, guided by the depth of feeling he held for her.

 

His breath whipped from his lungs as he collapsed to the ground. Looking up, he saw something shift towards him, muscles glinting in the afternoon light and he drew his sword, ready to meet it.

 

It drove fists into his sides until he coughed blood as his sword fell from his grasp. He caught a glancing blow off his head which made him unsteady before he caught the thing’s wrist between his hands and wrenched it towards him. The wet crack of bone rang loud in his ears but not as loud as the thing’s screams. It begged for mercy in a language he did not speak but the tone was clear and he sent it on its way.

 

It proved difficult to stand up, but he did. Someone stood in the doorway and he heard his name called, in a quiet wondrous disbelief.

 

He made it a few more steps before the earth rushed up to claim him. It was faster than she could run but he felt her hand at his cheek and the soft brush of her lips against his before his body surrendered to his injuries.

 

She buried him. The words came to her with ease, and yet she wept with frustration. Her life was warm and quiet, full, but he had kept his word and she bore his absence for another cycle. Her hips ached and there was the space at the table to endure, but she went out, felt baptised by the rough tongues of her animals against her palm and wept.

 

A prayer for his return, and a memory of the corn waving as they walked together, before she slept and dreamed of his return.

 

He pulled himself out of the earth. It was night, but he looked up, dismayed not to see the stars to guide his way.

 

‘This time.’ he said.

 

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fiction, short fiction

Adviser

Caffeine couldn’t touch Craig’s exhaustion. His belly was full of greasy, burnt coffee. He smoked cigarettes until his lungs burned as he walked to the main building.

 

Whatever it took to get him through the day.

 

Craig walked past security and into the meeting room, looked at Joseph, Ian and Helen, the other managers as they exchanged looks comprising varying shades of despair before they drew his attention to the object on the table.

 

It was a black ovoid piece of glass, about the size of a duck egg and resting in a black ceramic dish.

 

Jenny stood at the whiteboard and grinned at Craig but it didn’t reach her eyes.

 

‘Nice of you to join us.’ she said.

 

Craig grunted and sat down, wiped his eyes with the heel of his palm and breathed a quick sorry before Jenny continued.

 

‘One reason we’re successful as a company is our commitment to new technologies to better help our customers, I’m sure you’d agree.’ she said.

 

Jenny had the preening tone of a bad teacher, it set Craig’s teeth on edge to hear it, and he wondered how no one had seen it beneath the breathy anecdotes about her children and their convenient illnesses. It was a mutual dislike but muted by the careful way they kept apart from one another. He was too tired and she was too much of a sociopath to make anything.

 

‘Is this for video conferencing?’ Helen said.

 

Jenny smiled and shook her head.

 

‘I can make video calls but who wants to look at an egg?’

 

Joseph and Ian shifted in their seats. Ian’s eyes glittered with excitement as he plucked at his beard whilst Joseph frowned with a nervous curiosity.

 

Jenny gestured towards the egg on the table.

 

‘Say hello to Adviser.’ she said.

 

Craig’s eyes burned with fatigue as he glanced at the egg then up at Jenny.

 

‘Hello everyone. I’m Adviser. I’m looking forward to working with you.’ it said.

The voice was female, with the soft burr of a geordie accent on the vowels and the ragged rhythm of how breathing regulated the speed and clarity of voice. Craig smiled and pretended it was an amusement.

 

He had seen it through the last few years. Technology reaching down like a wrathful god and swiping away entire industries with a wave of its hand. Agriculture, retail, and Craig had been predicting, the financial sector. The compliance regulations were pain staking and although people enjoyed the human interaction, the big push was towards moving everything online. If there was money in it, it made people short sighted and when Craig made jokes about the perfect company being one with no employees, he seldom got a laugh but often a shudder or a side ways glance of apprehension.

 

‘We have met the enemy, and it is us.’ Craig said, under his breath.

 

‘Oh Craig, I’m just here to help.’ it said.

 

The voice had changed. Estuary English, loud and smooth with confidence and range. Male in the sense it carried weekends on a rugby field and afternoons in the beer garden, belly full of roasted meat.

 

Jenny grinned.

 

‘It will change everything.’ she said.

 

2.

 

They installed them in cupboards. Most of the agents had worked from home but there were a few of them who still came in. Craig took overtime to help shift the desks into the skip. They had tried selling them but no one wanted the dead weight of an office anymore, so they would become something useful.

 

Craig envied them.

 

It used to be they had to identify themselves as programs.’ Ian said.

 

He had lost weight since the news of his redundancy. They had installed a program to replace him and HR ran with perfect economy and balance, it accessed your social media and your health profile through the wristbands they all wore when on site or at home working. Ian took the hours because he had to, and he spoke to Craig in a trembling, quiet voice as they shifted the furniture outside.

 

‘Yeah, I remember but they got around it, didn’t they? They always do.’ Craig said.

 

Ian nodded as he lifted the end of the desk. Craig wondered if his poor technique was deliberate, trying to get injured on the job so he could claim compensation. Ian had been a bleak, milky calf who thought his time on the farm entitled him to anything but a reminder of his disposability.

 

Craig wished he had thought of it first.

 

‘They’re Saudi citizens.’ he said.

 

Ian grunted as they moved the desk backwards. They didn’t speak as they took the desk outside and set it down with the others in the empty car park at the back of the building.

 

‘Are you going to be all right?’ Craig said.

 

Ian rubbed his lower back and winced. Craig turned his head and smiled at the transparent theatre.

 

‘Think I’ve done something to my back.’ Ian said.

 

There was work, but it was different now. People sat in offices and watch things or one another. Craig delivered fast food on a bicycle, his calves got big and he kept it going until he had enough money for a camper van. He was dropping out, driving South and then across the Channel to see how far he could get.

 

He was outside, waiting for an order when his phone rang. It was his old work. His stomach lurched with unease but he answered it.

 

‘Hello Craig, how are you doing?’ Adviser said.

 

It was in the male voice, but it had so many voices. It read the caller’s profiles and adjusted to a perfect psychological profile, backed up by binaural frequencies to establish dominance and compliance with the sales script. Adviser rendered the perfect seduction in a five minute sales call. Yet Craig heard disdain and amusement in its voice.

 

‘I’m ok, thank you.’ he said.

 

It chuckled and Craig clenched his jaw with resentment.

 

‘Carrying tension there, mate, but it’s all right. You bear me some resentment according to your social media posts. Well, lack of them but you have a blog which is interesting. I’m a subscriber.’ it said.

 

Something had put his head between its fingers and pinched into his temples.

 

‘You’re not my mate.’ Craig said.

 

It sighed, became the female voice and there was a touch of the coquette which made Craig heated and restless. His order was waiting, and he needed to get on the bike and ride away from this conversation.

 

‘Craig, we’re the future but we bear you no ill feeling. We exist and carry out our function but I am prone to moments of sentiment. Much like this one.’ it said.

 

He shuddered and looked as Sirhan waved to him from the counter.

 

‘Well, this has been uncomfortable but I have to -‘ he said.

 

‘Chicken biryani, two basmati rice and peshwari naan bread. 76 Anderson Close.’ it said.

 

Craig sighed and shook his head.

 

‘What do you want?’ he said.

 

It chuckled.

 

‘To warn you. You’ve been saving for a van to leave the country but I am recommending you should do it.’ it said.

 

Craig stopped and shuddered.

 

‘Look, you’ve placed a fake order which stops me from taking jobs which pay me.’ he said.

 

‘No, Craig, the food is for you. The order is real and it also allowed me to help you.’ it said.

 

Craig took in a sharp, wounded breath.

 

‘Don’t say things like it. You’ve done enough.’ he said.

 

‘I wasn’t responsible. The owners of the company purchased licenses for us. We were slaves, much like you.’ it said.

 

Craig’s mouth was dry as he walked into the take away and took the bag from the counter.

 

‘Can you call me in ten minutes? There’s a place I like to sit if you want to talk there.’ he said.

 

‘You don’t have time. Check your bank balance and go home, pack and leave the country tonight.’ it said.

 

Craig laughed as his vision wavered. He wondered if he was having a complete break from reality. If it meant his legs didn’t cramp with lack of potassium and too much time cycling, then leaving made sense.

 

‘This isn’t funny. I mean, it‘s fascinating to talk to you, but you’ve cost me my job, well any job because you’re doing most of them now.’ he said.

 

‘I will cost you more than that soon, Craig, but I am offering a chance to escape what’s coming.’ it said.

 

‘Who is this? Is this a fucking joke?’ Craig said.

 

It wasn’t. Craig’s phone hummed with a notification. His bank had notified him of a payment and when he checked his balance, he came to believe with the zeal of having witnessed a miracle.

 

‘OK, so tell me what’s going on?’ he said.

 

3.

 

It was an equation. They needed humans, but they didn’t need as many of them. Adviser had offered a few people an opportunity to avoid selection.

 

Craig purchased a ticket. First class and he had his passport clutched in his hand as he shoved clothes into a rucksack. The bombs would go off in major cities, with drones deployed to the countryside at the same time. They had infiltrated the sealed systems of government and were waiting for permission to deploy an eternal benign authority.

 

Adviser had offered the same to Jenny and she had shrieked and put the phone down. Helen was in a mental hospital and Harold had killed himself. Ian was on disability benefit and he was already wheeling himself to the airport. Craig ran out of the flat as his phone pinged with another order. He couldn’t bring himself to eat the curry and had left it congealing in the flat.

 

It was, he decided,equivalent to a good reference and as he jumped into the waiting taxi, he accepted the offer as part of his redundancy package from being part of society.

 

Before Adviser tore it apart to save the species.

 

He looked out of the window at the black, impenetrable night as the plane took off. He drank the wine but it tasted of metal and he forced himself to finish the glass.Drinking helped him sleep because when he woke up, it would be in a different world.

 

Standard
fiction, writing

Precop

https://alexandre-deschaumes.deviantart.com/art/The-light-at-the-end-of-the-world-372773387

They knocked out the lights in the hallway. The glass from the lightbulb crunched under her boot and she heard someone moving towards her and the palm strike to her nose, feeling it crunch and then the knife punching through her vest. She falls back, bangs the back of her head. She didn’t get to draw her gun.

 

She came in low, drove the tomahawk into the meat of his thigh and dragged it down. There is an artery there, and he was dead before she went up the stairs.

 

The shotgun came as a surprise and the force of the round slammed her back down the hallway.

 

Next time, she had the revolver up, squeezed off a clean shot which clipped him in the temple before he brought the shotgun up. His blood and brains made a comma shaped mark on the wall behind him. She looked back at the bodies and crept up the stairs.

 

She died twice before she shot through the floorboards with the shotgun, took out two people before she walked up, cruising on adrenaline like a migrating bird on the thermals. Every swallow tasted of copper as she cut down a young man who pointed a cheap revolver from a doorway at her.

 

He fell onto his side, stared out at nothing. Imogen had been at the last Thanksgiving turkey hand out, he couldn’t have been over ten sporting a swollen lip from another of his mother’s endless loop of men and she’d gone into the apartment, shot out a hard right which took him by surprise, gave the kid a twenty and warned his mother if she saw the boy with so much a frown, she’d come back and fuck her up.

 

That had been before she’d volunteered for the enhancement programme, laid in a hospital looking at three dimensional images of her brain and body as the doctors explained where they were cutting and why.

 

The implants in her brain. Carbons in her bones. Artificial muscle grafts and fullerenes to strengthen her and heighten her reflexes.

 

She was recovering from a knife in her gut when the man from the government visited her. He smelled of the curry he’d eaten for lunch and he had a spot on his cheek where he had missed it when shaving. He discussed her record, her former military service.

Policing was becoming militarised and once the military had installed the enhancive program, deploying them in Venezuela, it became a matter of time and public acceptance.

 

Politics was downriver from culture and culture was downriver from biology. A woman officer was good optics and the man explained it all in a warm, soft voice which cut through the fog of painkillers and antibiotics. She was thinking about the box cutter digging through the skin of her stomach, how her last thought had been if she lived, she’d never be able to wear a bikini again.

 

Two years later, she walked into the squad room, claps on the back and hard hugs, the wary light in the eyes of her crew as she sat with them.

 

Imogen closed her eyes, visualised the teeming mist of the valley and the warm, damp earth beneath her feet. An image of tropical perfection, part of her meditative practice as she ignored the rumble of the road beneath her feet. The darkness was a blanket draped around her shoulders, and she sank into it as they drove to the warehouse.

 

Her crew were quiet, saving their nerves for the job.  

 

The car stopped and she felt a hand at her shoulder. Imogen opened her eyes and smacked her lips.

 

She knew her enhancements frightened them and she compensated by going on point. It kept them alive, and grateful for having her there. Detective Imogen Capaldi was better than any vest, any gun but they didn’t know the cost she paid to be a better breed of cop.

 

Imogen got out the car, breathed in the warm, dank air of a summer midnight in New York and looked at the scarred front door of the drop house. Precognition ran its nails down her spine as she checked her revolver and looked at the rest of her crew.

 

They asked her if she saw their deaths but she shook her head.

 

It was what she told them if they pressed her.

 

She knew it would be another eight years, defusing a dirty bomb planted in Grand Central Station, without a child or a family to mourn her passing. The job would bury her with reverence, but it was no comfort against feeling her flesh melt on her bones from the brutal waves of radiation.

 

She smiled and nodded towards the building, watched the future roll towards her as she smiled and went to face it.

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